It would appear that the PAP has begun its search for new candidates to be fielded at the next general election.
PM Lee urged Singaporeans who had the passion to serve Singapore and who believed that they had a contribution to make, to “come forward” and join the PAP. This statement in itself is commendable for it brings the ideals of public office back to basics and reminds all office holders that they are the servants of the people who have voted for them.
However, PM Lee appears to contradict himself when he said that he was also looking for “people who fit the standard mould”.
If the results for GE 2011 were anything to go by, there is growing evidence that the electorate does not want candidates who fit the standard PAP mould. At least 40 percent of the public perceive the run-of-the-mill PAP candidates to be more interested in high salaries than public service. Ill conceived remarks made by MP Lim Wee Kiak further reinforced the money grubbing image of PAP cadres. So, if the PAP wants to prove that it is truly listening and engaging with the populace, it had better not be looking for candidates who fit the old mould!
There is growing discontent against ministerial salaries, public transport fee hikes, ERP increases and the prices of HDB flats, all of which are linked to the PAP. Like it or not, the PAP’s image is connected with financial hardship and economic suppression of Singaporeans. Whether that is a hundred percent accurate is the subject of another discussion but the PAP cannot ignore the fact that it has an image hurdle to overcome.
To meet that challenge and prepare itself for GE 2016, it absolutely cannot stick to tried and tested methods. It has to reinvent itself and somehow convince disgruntled voters that it is acting in the peoples’ best interests. While PM Lee may not have been referring to greedy MPs as the standard mould, it can all too easily be construed that way.
This speech therefore highlights three possible scenarios, none of which are very reassuring:
1. The PAP is complacent again. Barely three months after the dust of their worse ever election has settled, they appear to be looking for the same people so despised by 40 percent of the electorate!
2. PM Lee is politically naive. Any seasoned politician worth his salt would be mindful of the pitfalls of statements such as these. Particularly after an election marked by voters’ displeasure at the “money face” image of its candidates!
3. The PAP is aware of the public’s distaste for the standard PAP candidate but chooses to ignore it.
The PAP has indicated post-election that it wants to rehabilitate its reputation and listen to the people. Since they have been returned to power, I would like to give PM Lee the benefit of doubt, and give him and his government a chance.
However, the PM has to know that he and the PAP have a long way to go in convincing the doubtful electorate that the PAP is truly committed to rejuvenation. He will have to overcome growing discontent which can all too easily exceed the 40 percent by GE 2016.
As a start, he has to realise that statements like these do not help.