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Why I'm Voting for Good Opposition MPs Now

Parliament Building, Singapore
Parliament Building, Singapore

Photo credit: Tim Donnelly,

TL;DR version:

So as to achieve happiness, prosperity, and progress in the year 2040.

Longer version:

Singapore's government today is too brittle to handle the complex challenges ahead, because it has been dominated by a single political party for too long. We need a strong alternative party that can take over and run the government when necessary. But building up such a party takes time; it doesn't happen over one election. Thus, we need more opposition MPs in Parliament now to prepare our "system" (ie. the incumbent ruling party, the Civil Service, the opposition parties, and the entire citizenry) to reach the maturity needed by 2040.

(Disclaimer: This post reflects my personal views, and not the views of my employer, nor my church.)

Full version:

I am pro-Singapore, and I want the PAP to run the government for the next five to ten years.

But allow me to take the long view: until 2040. Twenty years from now, Singapore will celebrate her Platinum Jubilee. At that time, the world will be a very different place. Singapore might have 6.9 million people or 10 million, who knows? But you can be sure challenges will abound.

For us to thrive at that time, not just merely survive, we will need a much more cohesive society and a stronger government, whose foundation needs to be laid now. For the past 61 years, the PAP has governed Singapore with a "father-knows-best" paternalism that, on the one hand has lifted the country from Third World to First in a single generation (mine; I was born in 1966), and on the other hand has bulldozed critics out of the way, whether they were loving or not.

And while this paternalistic style was necessary in a young Singapore which had a dearth of talent, perpetuating it will prove detrimental for the country going forward. Why? Because the next two decades look much scarier than the past five. Covid19 is but the first of possibly many more global pandemics; the Pax Americana global order is giving way to a multi-polar world; climate change is affecting us more with each passing year. And here in Singapore, we will feel "hot, flat and crowded", to quote Thomas Friedman.

More than ever before, we need to tap on the brainpower of capable Singaporeans to govern and guide the country through the next 20 years.

It is foolish to rely on the wisdom of a small coterie of elites known more for its Not-Invented-Here mindset than for genuine public consultation. Worse when that ruling party has succumbed to Group Think, which invariably sets in after six decades of uninterrupted power.

What we need is an alternative political party that is capable of running the government: a party devoid of historical inertia, that brings with it a different worldview, and that offers competent policies for the country. Having two evenly-matched parties compete for the role of governance is beneficial in at least three ways:

  1. It creates fairer rules.

  2. It keeps both parties transparent and on their toes.

  3. It fosters citizen engagement in politics.

Fairer Rules

A King rewarded two of his noblemen with a piece of land to be shared between them. The noblemen quarreled over who should divide up the land and claim his share. So the wise King gave them this rule: One of you will draw the dividing line, but it is the other who will get the first pick.

How do you think the nobleman will draw the line?

When you have two equally strong parties, they will enact rules that ensure fairness, because they know that they could be the opposition party after the next election.

Gerrymandering will be reduced and GRCs will be abolished. We might even see kindergartens run by other political parties.

Transparency and Alertness

Again, when two rival parties know that their day of reckoning is once every five years, they will strive harder to explain their decisions, and be more alert to ground sentiments. I expect a Freedom of Information Act to be passed, that requires the government to disclose the data it uses for policy-making. If not to the general public, then at least to other political parties. This not only makes for greater transparency, but might even lessen the need to invoke POFMA, since citizens can now police false statements themselves.

Increasing Citizen Engagement

This table documents every election that the PAP has won, and the many walkovers it has enjoyed over four decades, a feat that makes Singapore's political scene unique in the world. The reason for this is partly due to the PAP's knuckle-duster style of campaigning -- I recall the joke in GE1997: What's the name of the popular noodle stall in Cheng San GRC? Answer: Sue Me -- and partly because opposition parties did not offer candidates in quantity or quality.

The sad result was that many people became apathetic towards local politics. Every election was the same old story: some people get sued, the PAP is returned to government, nothing to see, so why bother about politics?

Conversely, when the day comes for Goliath to meet Goliath, we will surely see political apathy giving way to political engagement. The challenge then will be for Singaporeans to learn to debate civilly and rationally, and collectively rise up to steer the Singapore ship through the storms ahead.

Time for Action Now

It takes time to achieve political maturity. I'm hoping twenty years. But the people's action needs to start NOW!

  • The PAP needs time to adjust to a new reality.

  • The Civil Service needs time to adapt to a new political master.

  • Citizens need time to learn how to engage politically and disagree civilly.

  • And opposition parties need time to field good candidates.

My job now is to vote them into Parliament.