Tuesday, March 29, 2011

When the PAP loses an election, it will be time to leave.

Elections are around the corner. I have not posted anything on the upcoming elections. This isn't because I am politically apathetic. On the contrary, I am politically more aware than most Singaporeans.

The reason why I have not posted anything on the upcoming elections is because I do not think the result is in any doubt. The PAP will be returned to power again. The only thing in question is how big of a majority will they command. Will it be merely overwhelming, or ludicrously so?

And we all know why the PAP is so successful during elections. It has stacked the deck in its favor, shifted goalposts where necessary, subverted supposedly non-partisan organizations, co-opted potential opponents, passed legislation favorable to itself, leashed the media in its service and cultivated an environment where dissent is stifled for fear of reprisal.

You would think that a political party that is so proud of its policy successes (and that never fails to remind us about it!) would be more confident that it would be returned to power at each election on its own merits. Yet, it wheedles for every advantage it can get.

Is this not a sign of weakness? Or is it because the PAP genuinely believes that Singaporeans are too stupid to make the "obvious choice"?

This is not a rhetorical question. How one answers it is an indication of one's view of Singapore and Singaporeans.

With all of its political safeguards in place, it would be a miracle if the PAP is NOT returned to power.

Which brings me back to the title of this post, "When the PAP loses an election, it will be time to leave."

Living conditions in Singapore would have to deteriorate to an extremely serious state for the PAP to lose elections even with all of their incumbent's advantages.

Singapore will never reach such a parlous state, people scoff. We're not Egypt, Libya or Yemen.

Actually, one thing I do agree with our esteemed Minister Mentor is that Singapore, being small and vulnerable, does stand at the edge of disaster all the time. I disagree, however with the remedy.

Our political elite decided long ago that the best solution to the problem of "The little island that could" was to have a powerful government, ruled by the PAP that is for all intents and purposes, THE government. And this government, presumably staffed with the most talented people, would run the country in the best way possible. And politically, this government would be unfettered by irksome little opposition parties that in more democratic inefficient countries, would have to be dealt with, or heaven forbid, accommodated.

That model might have worked in earlier days. Perhaps it might even have been necessary during those uncertain times. But that model is showing its age, just as the ideas, attitudes and perspectives of the ruling party are looking stagnant, unresponsive, disconnected, and worst of all, dogmatic. Any criticism of current PAP government policy is treated as heresy.

A monolithic government such as ours can coast along for a long while without major problems. But a true crisis, a black swan, one that the PAP cannot handle, will lead to catastrophic failure. And without a robust framework in place for orderly transition and change of political leadership, Singapore would fail and fail irrecoverably.

Our politics are as impoverished as our most disadvantaged citizens.

The PAP government has conflated its existence and success with the existence and success of Singapore itself. No less than Ngiam Tong Dow stated, "I think our leaders have to accept that Singapore is larger than the PAP."

By so systematically dismantling and disempowering political opposition, the PAP is planting the seeds of its own destruction. If and when the PAP slips from power, there will be no second chances for it. No renewal for the PAP can come from a desert wasteland if Singapore fails irrecoverably.

In the past few years since the last election, many Singaporeans have wondered if our country has lost its way. It doesn't feel like home anymore. The government appears disconnected from the aspirations and needs of citizens.

If this is what the PAP calls success, I am not sure I would want to stick around to see what failure is like.

If a change in direction is needed in our policies, then it is best that the change be made as soon as possible.

But just as police states everywhere have a nasty habit of tightening controls just as the population gets restive, I have no doubt that the PAP will stack the deck even more heavily in its favor if ever in the future it is at even the slightest risk of losing power.

The PAP is so sure that its policies are the correct course of action that it would persist even in the face of severe opprobrium. The only concession made would be the occasional window-dressing that we are seeing now.

And if anyone believes that current immigration and economic policy is going to be reversed after the election, they will be severely disabused of this notion in a matter of months.

This is a government that has a hard time taking responsibility and criticism even for a minor flash flood, what more a true crisis that might be a result of its own doing, such as the demographic time bomb that continues to tick.

Tick-tock.

When you are in a hole, the first thing to do is to stop digging. The imperial nature of our government is not a sustainable state of affairs for any country, if only because men are proud and fallible. It is even less sustainable in a country like ours.

I can feel the hole becoming deeper.

I am less sanguine than our ministers who flippantly state that if the PAP were to lose its relevance, it will lose the mandate of the people and presumably gracefully step aside for a new party. Everything about the PAP shows that it would sooner change the rules of the game before that happens.

The question is, what will the PAP leave behind for a new government when it eventually does lose power, against all odds? A smoking ruin, or a shattered country?

When the PAP loses an election, it will be too late to leave. The time to leave would have been before.

13 comments:

Vernon said...

Brilliantly written truth which all should read and take seriously but then again, many of us are 'spoon-fed' with no minds of our own, until something tragic happens..

PanzerGrenadier said...

Very thought provoking.

I think I'd better get my plan B ready sooner than later,i.e. have a relatively safe haven available in a neighbouring ASEAN country to retire in when that happens.

Cicada said...

Fair and Truthful piece. May the leaders who have ears hear

Ryan Goh said...

Leaders who have ears? A rare sight these days, what with corruption, power and other vice that abounds.

Lewis Chuang said...

Well-written and fair. Thanks.

I am dissatisfied by the instinctively antagonistic comments that I read online, and feel that the PAP is largely to blame for creating such a climate of vile cynicism*.

Political leaders might claim that Singaporeans are not ready for a truly democratic process given our apparent lack of political maturity. But I can only see things getting worse if they persist in their approach. No one, least of all, LKY would like to have a failed state at the end of the day.

* hmm... here we go again.

Lewis Chuang said...

Well-written and fair. Thanks.

I am dissatisfied by the instinctively antagonistic comments that I read online, and feel that the PAP is largely to blame for creating such a climate of vile cynicism*.

Political leaders might claim that Singaporeans are not ready for a truly democratic process given our apparent lack of political maturity. But I can only see things getting worse if they persist in their approach. No one, least of all, LKY would like to have a failed state at the end of the day.

* hmm... here we go again.

booong!!! said...

It will be a gradual political erosion accentuated by the loss of a few more parliamentary seats. The incumbents will still rule the waves. However, they will have to re-evaluate their especially insidious self-serving political policies. If not, then by the next following GE, the loss of parliamentary seats will be aggravated to such an extent that they will be possibly replaced by an opposition coalition.

mjuse said...

To booong:
you are entitled to your opinion of course, but if you read my article, you would know that my position is a little different, and more nuanced.

my assertion is that the loss of power by the PAP will essentially be a non-linear event.

they will either not lose, or lose suddenly by a landslide because their performance has been so bad that it is beyond even window dressing.

Timothy said...

You put in words what we all know in our minds. Bravo.

takchek said...

mjuse: Using process control nomenclature, I call the current PAP system an open-loop controller (ie inputs into the system using only the current state and its model of the system).

Such a controller cannot compensate for changes acting on the system. There are disturbances now on the system, and such a controller will lead us to a disaster if the instability is not corrected and allowed to propagate.

mjuse said...

takchek:

we should be so lucky that the pap is an open-loop controller. given their propensity to selectively focus on kpis such as gdp growth, it's more like a closed loop controller...that adjusts inputs based on the wrong things.

T said...

interesting piece, well written.

mirror's my nightmare scenario of a 'scorched earth policy' white-collar style.

check out this video on what voting can mean to the informed voter ;-)

R Lim said...

I've already left. Observer (Queensland, Australia)