There was a notable omission in Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong's (LHL) New Year message to the nation. While he talked about a wide range of issues ranging from our strained relationship with neighbour, Malaysia to our economy to our international standing, he failed to mention anything in relation to the rumoured year-end general elections. This silence on the topic is made all the more deafening given that he made reference to our smooth leadership succession. As readers will no doubt be aware, Finance Minister Heng Swee Keat was named heir apparent earlier this year. Why mention smooth leadership transition without also mentioning the general elections?
The fact that general elections will have to be called at some point is no secret. LHL himself has made reference to it on other occasions. He has in fact publicly stated that general elections could be as soon as 2019. Why then is there no follow up on this issue on his New Year day speech? Leadership transition is after all not just about one person but would involve the entire parliament as well. Not to mention general elections is therefore odd. It leads one to speculate if either: the current government views leadership as a one man show; or that it is adopting a "wait and see" approach" as to when general elections are held. If it is the former, this is not reassuring as it implies that the government is not inclusive. If it is the latter, it begs the question - What are they waiting for?
One can speculate as to what they may be waiting for but it could potentially be to wait for the best time to call general elections. In other words, what period would work best for the incumbent Peoples' Action Party (PAP) government? If this is indeed the case, is this fair for Singaporeans?
At the end of the day, general elections are held to ensure that Singaporeans can choose who they feel are the best candidates to represent them in government. General elections are not supposed to be held to facilitate a given party's hold on power.
As mentioned in an earlier article, the incumbent government has great control over the timing of general elections. In our unique system where one party holds virtually all the seats, it means that this one party has immense control over when elections would be. In view of this, to what extent can Singaporeans ensure that the electoral system is not manipulated to boost party interests over the interests of the citizens?