The old playbook of the People’s Action Party (PAP) has been brought out again. After failing in their attempt to cast aspersions on the Worker’s Party’s (WP) star candidate Chen Show Mao, the PAP has once again resorted to the politics of fear.
On Saturday, Education Minister Ng Eng Hen warned Bishan Toa-Payoh residents at the launch of Height Park that a “freak election result” might be possible if people voted for the opposition.
Haven’t we heard this tired refrain at almost every general election? One would think the electorate has become desensitized to such propaganda over the years, along with similar scare tactics that suggest that only the PAP will ever be fit to form the government and the country will be ruined at the hands of the opposition. The last time an opposition party gained power in Singapore was in 1959, and the country was not ruined.
At the same time, in a rather contradictory statement, Dr Ng challenged the opposition to look toward forming an alternative government, and not just look toward offering an alternative voice in Parliament, which he claims the NCMP scheme caters for.
This statement deserves a rebuttal. The NCMP scheme is an attempt at pacifying the electorate which wants more diverse voices in Parliament, whilst at the same time encouraging swing voters to continue supporting the incumbent. In reality, NCMPs do not have as much power in Parliament as full-fledged MPs, and they are mere figureheads that offer the semblance but not the substance of political plurality.
A genuine alternative voice can only come about if Singaporeans elect a fair number of opposition MPs into Parliament.
At the same time, the opposition can only approach the issue of forming an alternative government via incremental steps – by slowly gaining a foothold in Parliament and then working their way up over multiple election cycles. This view is shared by both the WP and the Singapore People’s Party (SPP), which has taken pains to resist embracing at an ideological level the kind of abrupt political change that Dr Ng wants to frighten voters with.
A freak election result happens not when the opposition gains power, but when the people have cast their vote decisively but their will is not translated into actual political change.
A freak election result is not possible in a functioning, mature democracy. By even suggesting that such an outcome is possible, Dr Ng has indirectly rubbished the very electoral system his government has created. That really is quite a shame.