Tuesday, March 21, 2006

PAP, let us have *some* opposition MPs please

MARCH 20, 2006 MON

He plans to give voters what they want, as PAP aims for a solid win at the polls

SENIOR Minister Goh Chok Tong has been given a special assignment this election: win back the opposition wards of Potong Pasir and Hougang for the People's Action Party.

The PAP is fighting this election not only to win, but to win well, across the country, said Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong.

Asked for his feel of the ground during a walkabout in Ang Mo Kio GRC and neighbouring new single seat ward Yio Chu Kang, Mr Lee said: 'We're confident. But we must make sure we win well - not just in Ang Mo Kio or in Yio Chu Kang - but across the board. And we're working hard to do that.'

On the two opposition wards, he added: 'I've discussed with my colleagues and I've asked SM Goh to take a special interest in these two opposition wards and help them win.'

The PAP's Eric Low in Hougang and Mr Sitoh Yih Pin in Potong Pasir were both 'good fighters', confident of the ground, he said.

Still, Mr Goh can give additional backing, said Mr Lee, adding: 'We want to win. It's not 'masak masak'.' This is Malay for 'playing around'.

He identified three things that Mr Goh, who has been an MP for 30 years and was prime minister for 14, can do: contribute ideas, lend support to the candidates, and signal to voters 'that we're taking it seriously'.


Throwing SM Goh's weight behind the PAP candidates in Opposition wards will likely result in at least one (probably Potong Pasir, given the small margin there the last time) -- and possibly both -- falling to PAP's hands. Assuming PAP manages to hang on to all its other seats, there would be zero Opposition MPs (less NCMPs, NMPs etc) in Parliament. Is this a good idea?

For the foreseeable future, Singapore will be dominated by the PAP. Some blame the strong-arm tactics (using law suits etc) or gerrymandering by the PAP. IMHO, that is -- whether fair or otherwise -- the incumbent's advantage. Whether it is Malaysia, Indonesia or the US, the incumbent administration will use the electoral tools to its own advantage. To quote PM Lee, it's not "masak masak."

But it also because we have not had a strong group of opposition politicians to put up any significant challenge. And for almost two decades past, PAP's complete dominance is Parliament (again not counting NMPs and NCMPs) was only prevented by a few lone figures. Maybe that's not enough, but I take refuge in their presence as a checks and balance against a largely single party system.

As much as I would credit the PAP with much of the progress that Singapore has enjoyed, I'm not sure I want all constituencies to be represented by only PAP.

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