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PAP’s Achilles heel is its inability to run a dignified election

By Anil Balchandani

own checkThis year, through events to celebrate our jubilee year of independence, the residents and citizens have gotten to see Singapore in all its splendor.

A large part of our nation’s success is the result of good leadership by government, and concomitant hard work by its residents.

The Prime Minister and his team, for all their hard work and dedication to the nation, does not seem to understand that an election and its process is one where the electorate is given the opportunity to contemplate the issues. Instead, the Prime Minster and the ruling party have continually called snap elections to take advantage of their political dominance

The prerogative to call an election at the Prime Minister’s fancy is one that is accorded in our laws. But to take undue advantage of this provision, makes one wonder if the Prime Minister is lacking the confidence to receive a mandate that should be given in an election process where the process is not cheated of time.

The first misstep taken was the decision given by the Prime Minister to have the Electoral Boundaries commission redraw the boundaries three months ago without announcing it publicly. If the PAP is committed to being transparent, the Prime Minister should have disclosed this in a gazette or made a public announcement.

The fact that the PM only made the disclosure after being questioned in Parliament by a Non-constituency Member of Parliament displays his intent of not wanting to engage the electorate in a mature manner.

The PAP is the largest player in our political system. For approximately fifty years it has dominated the scene and have written most of the rules. As the biggest player, they already have the advantage over other parties by order of magnitude. No amount of funding, preparation, deliberation or planning by another party can match or come close to that of the machinery of the PAP. It is therefore so very necessary that the biggest player on the block conduct itself in the fairest of ways so as to set the tone that the elections are not only meant to be fair and free, but is seen to be fair and free.

The Prime Minister has built up Election 2015 to be one of extreme importance: one where the direction for the next 50 years will be decided in the next few years after a mandate is given. If the Prime Minister thinks this is a watershed election, then it puzzles me that the electorate is only given eight days to decide on this.

How is it that the Prime Minister expects the electorate to comprehend all the issues canvassed by his party and the opposition for years to come in eight days?

If one is a working adult, that person only has a weekend to necessarily pay attention and decide on what path to take for the next decade. Is this the right way to confer the responsibility on citizens to make a decision as paramount as where we are headed for the next 50 years?

Given the importance of the decision levied to the electorate, the people deserve to have a longer period to contemplate the ideas put across, and parties wanting to canvass their alternative ideas should have time to be able to reach out to the electorate.

When given the platform, the PAP being the dominant player, has repeatedly insulted the intelligence of the electorate election after election. Instead of championing the good work that the PAP has done in rectifying and improving the lives of citizens, the PAP continually berates the electorate by defying the very tenets that good governance is built on to drive home the notion that the PAP is incorruptible. A point that speaks to this is Mr Goh Chok Tong’s missive that to have an opposition party in Parliament to watch over the PAP as a check and balance is “a seductive lie”. If the PAP is imputing that they have their own mechanism to check themselves, then why have elections? Let’s just declare ourselves a one party state and free the people of the hypocrisy of being a democratic nation.

Even if the opposition is not worth their salt and is half the measure of a PAP candidate, it is up to the elector to decide who to choose, and not for the PAP to tell us that the PAP is unworthy of being checked.

Our developed society requires debates on topics that affect our lives and that will affect our lives.

The only ‘debate’ that the PAP has been engaged in is that of AHPETC – where parties are engaged in loudhailer politics. Where are the debates on national issues? Why is there no desire for a robust discussion during the hustings?

The PAP is earnest in its work for the nation. It toils hard and tirelessly for the years between elections. But it is in its infancy when it comes to holding elections in a dignified manner – one that complements the work done by it in the run-up to elections.

People will vote for the PAP if they are given a chance to contemplate its successes and its missteps. To side step this process that is called for in an election, people begin to doubt the achievements of the PAP. It is incumbent upon the PAP as the biggest player to conduct themselves fairly and to allow the electorate ample time to make an important decision. It is not correct to say that as the biggest player, it has the law behind it and can take the advantage in surprising its opponents to battle because the law allows it to.

The manner in which the ruling party conducts itself during elections, the structure of the elections process, its regulations and the laws created to handicap the opposition parties and stymie the electorate are reason enough for people to consider an alternative voice. It becomes the Achilles heel in an otherwise valiant body of men and women that serve with dignity and valour.