[Remaking Singapore's political system]
Before I start talking about the changes to expect for Singapore's political system, let me share a conversation which I had with Prime Minister Lee last year during a ministerial dialogue. This conversation was after the dialogue so it was not reported anywhere.
Having studied various political systems, I then asked PM Lee about allowing more opposition members into the political system by lowering the barriers-to-entry into politics (high election deposits, forfeiture of election deposits). My rationale was that politics is about plurality and diversity and the system should reflect this.
PM Lee replied and said this: "What kind of leaders do you want in Parliament?"
Of course my answer to the question was capable and credible leaders.
Then he replied asking me how credible a leader could be when he/she promises to share his political salary after being voted in. I kept silent and noted his point.
Well I should have reminded him that he gave a portion of his salary to charity too but the premise for that was moral consciousness and not a political promise. In that sense, both are quite different scenarios.
Or I should have told him that I did not want to have elitist leaders serving. I could have said that I wanted open, approachable and MPs that are easily accessible - well Facebook allows that now but not all MPs are that "addicted" to Facebook. I could also say capable leaders that have respect for all individuals and not use table tennis tactics in their political moves.
I would now try to dissect my conversation with PM and uncover his principles and see how they could apply to political changes.
In a previous post about elections in Singapore, I showed the increased vote share of the PAP after the Group Representation Constituency system. The table showed the results of Parliamentary Elections over the course of Singapore's history.
Add in the rhetoric about the PAP surviving in Singapore for the next 50 years and the remarks about brain drain and how Singapore can only afford a one-party system.
For one, that would not change.
Then I listen to the remarks about how a stable government is good for Singapore and Singaporeans as a whole - mainly from a business point, in terms of investments both foreign and local.
But one thing is for sure, the PAP wants alternative voices in Parliament but these voices can exist but they may not have to participate in the electoral process. Is that possible?
I believe that a stable one party system can allow for plurality. One is for plurality to come from within - which is the PAP. Secondly, it is through schemes such as the NMP scheme and the NCMP scheme. If the PAP's tactic is to continue to have political hegemony over Singapore's system, then the way to keep the PAP in power and to allow more alternative voices outside of the PAP is to bring in such voices from outside the existing electoral system.
Is it then wrong as a ruling party to prevent the opposition from gaining power? My guess is that any political party in power would think the same way to exert this limitation. If Singapore falls to an opposition party tomorrow, do you think they will not enact changes to prevent the PAP from regaining power?
Moving beyond that, I think that revolutionary changes such as a proportional representation system or systems that allow two votes, which were mooted by a Today reporter sometime back, seem too far fetched. If Singapore adopts this system, it will mark a shift from its traditional pragmatic approach. While it is not impossible, it is not highly plausible. Although this system would allow for a higher number of opposition MPs into Parliament through the electoral system.
So I agree that an incremental approach would be used since the ruling party has been very conservative in many ways even in civil society dealings. What this means is that schemes like the NMP and NCMP scheme could be relooked. Maybe a new scheme would then be introduced.
I believe the fundamentals of our current political system would still focus on stability. And any bold change would make political watchers sit up. For now we can only wait and see if the drama is as groundbreaking as The Little Nonya.