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The prospect for a more liberal democracy in Singapore is lackluster. Khairulanwar.

Fallacies of the boon of PAP dominance

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Khairulanwar Zaini with contributions by Current Affairs Desk

Amidst the call to ‘evolve’ the political framework, arguments from two PAP backbenchers indicate that the much-vaunted changes may be restricted to mere platitudes.

Following Low Thia Kiang’s speech on Monday about the necessity of “more effective opposition” to check an incumbent party that may become corrupt, Indranee Rajah asserted that the argument is “unsound.”

Sadly, her arguments are riddled with logical inconsistencies.

She was reported to have said: "The premise of Mr Low's suggestion is flawed. He's really saying just in case PAP becomes corrupt in the future, then people had better vote for the opposition now.”

"But if you apply the same logic, then the argument can also be made that if you vote in the opposition, then they may become corrupt in the future, so in order to avoid that, you might as well vote for PAP now."

This is a flagrant ignorance of the contextual reality of opposition politics. Her castigation of Low’s reasoning may be fair if the Workers’ Party (or the opposition at large) were capable of challenging the PAP’s electoral primacy.

That however is not the case – as Low himself posits, he wants only for a “more effective opposition presence (that) can provide checks and balances on the ruling party.”

Her statement that the argument is double-edged since the opposition can become “corrupt” is frivolous. The opposition in its current paltry state does not even harbour a minimal chance of being a government-in-waiting.

The far-fetched notion that a fledging opposition – whose legislative influence will still remain under considerable constraint relative to the ruling party’s – will be able to “abuse its power, trample on people’s rights” makes a mockery of her statement, while it does not diminish the true danger which Low Thia Kiang alluded to: that the PAP, with its overweening dominance, may grow corrupt and rule illiberally, and that this danger can be better checked with a “more effective opposition presence.”

Josephine Teo’s remarks are telling of the ruling party’s implicit agenda to ensure that any changes to the political system entail a continued predisposition to PAP’s hegemony. Other than being guilty of conflating the interests of the party and the state, Teo presented Parliament with a false dichotomy in asking whether it was “better for Singapore to support an opposition … in the hope that it could govern well when it overthrows a corrupt PAP … (or) to make sure that the PAP … has the strongest team to serve Singaporeans?”

Logical fallacies aside, the backbenchers take for granted that the PAP dominance in Parliament is a boon.

The central thrust of most of the arguments seems to lie in the need to “preserve a corruption-free political system, and to maintain a political culture that does not tolerate corruption.” The PAP MPs, in their propensity to believe that their Parliamentary ascendancy is good for the country, are hence more inclined to institute a system of internal self-regulation rather than be subjected to independent regulation by an opposition force.

With this perspective clearly entrenched, the prospect for a more liberal democracy in Singapore is lackluster – because clearly the idea of an evolved political system for the PAP is one where the incumbent ruling party can be made better, in the slipshod assumption that the country will then be better off as a result.

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