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Multiple Opposition Parties and Proportional Representation may be good for Singapore

By Ariffin Sha

Here are some lies we have been fed: Too many parties will dilute non-PAP votes, We’re too small for a coalition Government and We don’t have enough talent for a two-party system.

Reading these comments on the news report about Tan Jee Say announcing the formation of his new Political Party perturbs me.

This is an integral part of Democracy.

I guess most Singaporeans have this Black or White mentality instilled in us since young. It’s either this, or that. But we fail to see that there can be more than 2 ways to do something. There isn’t only the PAP way or the WP way, there are many ways. And the more diversity we have, the more we can come up with a better decision. We are diverse in opinions, needs and wants. We need the right team to represent us. I’m pretty sure 3 million Singaporeans can’t only have 2 different points of view. Diversity is needed for a true representation. Parliamentary Debates would be vigorous and very interesting to watch too.

Personally, I don’t mind seeing more Political Parties. After all this is Democracy isn’t it? If all the opposition were united under one banner, eventually there will be less variety and party whips might come into play. The lesser the number of Opposition, the easier it is for the Ruling Party to control the Opposition. Isn’t it easier to leash one animal than a pack of animals?

“We don’t have enough talent for Singapore for a two-party system” – Lee Hsien Loong, April 2011

We have been fed this lie for years now. The lie that we are too small and we don’t have enough talent for a two-party system. I beg to differ. I believe our ‘World-Class’ Education System can produce enough talent for a coalition Government, let alone a two-party system. Maybe we don’t have enough parties to represent the talents that Singapore has.

’3/4 corner fights might dilute the non-PAP votes’ is the common argument that people who are against multiple parties raise up. I disagree. If we look at the results of the 2011 Punggol General Elections (3-Corner Fight) 2013 Punggol By-Elections (4-Corner Fight), although it was a 4 corner fight consisting of 3 opposition parties, the votes were not diluted between the three parties. Many commented that PAP would win as they electorate would be confused, but they were proven wrong. Lee Li Lian won 54.2% of the votes and PAP had a negative vote swing of 10%. This shows that our electorate do not always get confused by multiple parties.

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TOC has actually compiled 9 quotes from PAP that show us why we don’t need Opposition. Have a good  laugh read reading the 9 reasons here.

I would like to have a variety of voices in Parliament, not just one or 2 parties. It might take longer than usual to decide on things with a coalition Government but it will definitely be a well debated outcome. Can you imagine a Parliament with the likes of Chee Soon Juan, Kenneth Jeyaretnam and Tan Jee Say in it? I’m sure they will give the Government a good run for their money and ask tough questions and give good alternatives too.

Having more opposition is good as it can prevent abuse of power from the party which has the majority of the votes. It allows White Papers to be debated on, and also it prevents our Constitution from being amended or overwritten.

Thanks to our first past the post system, even though only 60.1% of eligible votes voted for the PAP, they have 92% of the seats in Parliament. However in other nations, if you have 60.1% of votes, you get 60% of seats in Parliament. This system is called Proportional Representation. I wonder if PAP would speak out against the first past the post system if they get voted out and contest again as opposition, as it would definitely be harder to get into Parliament.

Actually if it wasn’t for our First Past the Post System, Multi-Cornered fights wouldn’t be much of a problem too. And we could also bid farewell to gerrymandering.

Contrary to Popular Belief, a coalition government and a system of proportional representation in Parliament is not detrimental to a nation. Have a look at the Parliaments of Sweden and Finland,

  • Swedish Parliament: Social Democrats: 30.66% Moderate Party: 30.06% Green Party: 7.34% Liberal People’s Party: 7.06% Centre Party: 6.56% Sweden Democrats: 5.70%
  • Finland Parliament: National Coalition Party: 20.4% Social Democrats: 19.1% True Finns: 19.1% Centre Party: 15.8% Left Alliance: 8.1% Green League: 7.3% Swedish People’s Party: 4.3%

Notice the things they have in common? They both have at least 6 different parties in Parliament and there is no clear ‘winner’. The difference between the 1st and 2nd highest percentage of votes is about 1% only. And both Finland and Sweden are doing well as a nation too, they are economically and politically stable.

It would be interesting to see what different opposition parties have to offer.