Monday, November 17, 2008

Lock n Load! - PAP Platoon move out!

I read with bemusement Fang Zhi Yuan’s (chief editor of Wayangparty.com) op-ed on why the PAP will win the next election with an increased majority. His piece was in response to rumours of an early election following the news that Election Department has already begun to select and train election officials.

The ‘rumour’ was in fact confirmed yesterday when PM Lee came out to say that Budget Statement 2009 will be brought forward a month to January 2009. In addition, he announced that electricity charges would drop in that same month and might be lower than the levels at Oct this year.

These promises to stimulate the economy, support jobs and reduce the cost of living were however accompanied with a thinly-veiled caveat: “the country is much better off with one dominant party, as long as the PAP provides clean and good government, and the lives of Singaporeans improve.”

The venue of these announcements is also noteworthy. They were not made on the sidelines of community event but as keynotes at the People's Action Party conference. The underlying message to PAP activists, it’s our time to shine!

Back to my bemusement at Zhi Yuan’s piece. While I was initially stumped by his level of pessimism over the hopes of the opposition at the next election, I can see clearly how, as he put it, I had “grossly underestimated the well-oiled election machinery of the PAP”.

For the past 5 years, Singapore has enjoyed economic growth and prosperity following major crises from 1997 to 2003. But ironically, ‘goods times’ only spell ‘bad times’ for the PAP, as financial worries are replaced by aspirations for political plurality, press freedoms, civil rights and so on.

Take the 1997 elections for example. This was held in Jan and thus it was still during a period of prosperity and economic growth. The PAP only managed to garner 65% of the vote.

Then the Asian Financial Crisis hit at the tail end of 97 and was followed by another seminal event, the bombing of the WTC in Sep 11, 2001. The PAP swiftly called for an election in Nov of 2001 and won 75% of the electoral vote.

The poor vote return won by PM Lee (66.6%), which was achieved during a period of economic ascendance following the slowdown brought about by SARS, could perhaps be partly attributed to the testy ‘transitional vote’ which was mirrored in Goh’s poor performance In 1991 (61%) after taking over the reigns from Lee Kuan Yew.

In fact, Goh’s only real mandate was achieved during economically trying times. Hence it would not be surprising for PM Lee to bring forward the next GE as soon as possible to ride on these uncertain times.

The PAP is not stupid. They are well-aware that they are clueless in preparing for greater political participation and dealing with a citizenry that is more vocal and politically aware. They do not know how to deal with the foreign press apart from suing for defamation. They do not know what to do with the growing instances of civil disobedience and greater expression .... but one thing they do know is how to spin economic uncertainty in their favour.

They will dangle carrots galore during the early budget statement. They will announce a stimulus package to (as they will tell us) make sure we can keep our jobs and maintain our standards of livings. They might even give us some cash to ride out the year till their plans that effect.

They will also above all make it clear that without a mandate from the people, they will not be able to follow through with these measures. This is just the beginning.

3 comments:

PRAY,IT WORKS. joe's blog said...

"the country is much better off with one dominant party, as long as the PAP provides clean and good government, and the lives of Singaporeans improve.”
How does this PAP know it is providing clean and good govt. All dissent is not tolerated. Good govts. must accept opposition.

Singapore Indian Voice said...

Great article, Gabriel.

Gabriel Sim said...

Joe - exactly. A ruling party that provides clean and good governance should have nothing to fear from some opposition.

Seelan - hi bro, whats your thoughts on this matter?