In an interview with the Financial Times on Tuesday (29 May), Malaysian Prime Minister Tun Dr. Mahathir bin Mohammad said that the electoral victory of Pakatan Harapan coalition would reverberate across the causeway.
He added that “the people of Singapore, like the people in Malaysia, must be tired of having the same government, the same party since independence.”
Tun Mahathir conceded that the “biggest mistake” of his life was to promote former Prime Minister Najib Razak. Previously, it was him who had appointed Mr. Najib to his cabinet and subsequently supported the latter’s bid to become Prime Minister in 2009.
Acknowledging his advanced age, the 92-year-old strongman said that he wants “to ensure that the country becomes once again democratic. At the same time, we have to reduce the capacity for abuse by the prime minister”.
He spoke about facing the daunting tasks of reforming the political system, stabilising the state’s finances and restoring the international reputation of his country.
Prominent Academics: PAP’s loss of power only a matter of time
Interestingly, Mahathir may not be the only prominent figure who thinks that Singaporeans are tired of the People’s Action Party.
Back in 2014, S R Nathan fellow and Chairman of the Banyan Tree Group Ho Kwon Ping spoke at the at the IPS-Nathan Lecture. He said that the PAP could see itself losing its dominance in Parliament in 15 years, or lose power completely in the second half of the next 50 years.
While he acknowledged that the PAP’s “exceptionalism” has given it the trust of the people, he also questioned whether that same exceptionalism that PAP possesses can be maintained two or three decades from the present.
Given the general trend where democratically elected parties have fallen out of power within half a century to three-quarters of a century as they floundered, Ho said that it remains a daunting task for PAP to renew itself.
More recently, Professor James Chin, from the University of Tasmania said in an interview with the Australian Financial Review that the PAP could lose power as its brand was fast becoming ‘toxic’.
While he acknowledged that the popular vote increased “by about 10 per cent” in 2015, he said that this was ‘primarily due to the death of Lee Kuan Yew six months earlier” and “voters wanted to give LKY a last hurrah”.
Beneath that, there was strong unhappiness over the perceived disconnect between the ruling party and the masses and costs of living.
He said that “ordinary Singaporeans already have a negative view of the PAP elite, who graduate from the best-known universities, hold the most prestigious scholarships and serve in the Singapore Armed Forces before entering PAP politics. They are seen as totally removed from the hard lives of ordinary Singaporeans”
Since GE2015, the PAP has given Singaporeans a host of price increases:
- A 30% hike in the prices of water – which the Prime Minister deems as “absolutely necessary”
- Increase in tuition fees for university students despite huge surpluses in the universities’ endowment funds
- Gas tariffs were continuously increased despite SP making an average profit of $1 billion a year for the past 13 years
- Parking charges at HDB and URA carparks, despite URA and HDB making almost $600 million in profits from car park charges
- A $13.30 airport tax for passengers flying out of Changi Airport which will take effect on 1 July to fund the new Terminal 5
- Possible e-commerce Goods and Service Tax imposed on goods purchased online
“The standard joke is PAP actually stands for ‘Pay And Pay’ party”, Professor Chin joked.
What do you think?