Winning Istanbul mayoral candidate Ekrem Imamoglu, seen voting here on Sun (23 Jun), promised a "battle for democracy". Source: AFP/Bulent Kilic

Khush Chopra: Democracy always wins

by Khush Chopra

While observers of the state of democracy agree that democracy has been in relative decline in recent years, it is my view that democracy always eventually leads to better governance, stability and prosperity.

The campaign slogan of the opposition mayoral challenger who won in a race for control of Turkey’s biggest and most important city Istanbul was: “Everything will be alright”.

Yes indeed, everything will be alright and democracy always wins.

Why do these elections in Turkey matter to us in Singapore? They matter because it was a stunning victory for democracy over authoritarianism. The similarities in the challenges and context democracy faces in Turkey to those we face in Singapore are equally compelling.

It was a test of democracy against an authoritarian regime that presided over rising costs of living against a backdrop of widening religious, class and ethnic divides. The people of Istanbul chose justice and equality instead.

Despite blanket pro-government media coverage, İmamoğlu, a previously anonymous local administrator the opposition candidate won a high-stakes rerun of the Istanbul mayoral election against a former Prime Minister of the country.

The march of democratic movements across the globe from Hong Kong to Istanbul is picking up momentum again.

The pro-democracy movement in Hong Kong is inspiring. Communist China will clearly not allow Hong Kong to develop into a full-fledged democracy with free and fair elections even if they have allowed Hong Kong’s leader to be elected by a popular vote. This has led to severe tensions between China and the Hong Kong people which have erupted into at least two stunning massive protests; the “Umbrella Movement” in 2014 and the extradition law protests of the last few weeks that shocked the world.

It is clear that the “one country, two systems” framework reaches its conclusion in 2047 under the Basic Law and we are therefore witnessing the playing out of what is going to be a protracted pro-democracy war between freedom and dictatorship.

The state of democracy closer to home reflects this pro-democracy trend even if some ground is lost from time to time. Singapore and Thailand come to mind.

The political processes across Southeast Asia are centred on personalities rather than on ideologies. Our last General Election (GE) is a good example as the Lee Kuan Yew (LKY) factor following his death dominated the emotions of that election. Southeast Asia is no unqualified democratic success story yet but there are signs of hope.

Our region has witnessed at least four monumental democratic achievements.

First in 1986, when the People Power Revolution in the Philippines led to the toppling of the Marcos regime. Second, in 1998, when the resignation of Indonesia’s former President Soeharto ended the 3 decade-long authoritarian government and ushered in the reformasi period. Third, in 2015 when Aung San Suu Kyi’s National League for Democracy (NLD) party rode a popular wave into a sweeping victory in Myanmar’s parliamentary election. Fourth, the 2018 Malaysian general election (GE14) which brought the shocking and groundbreaking victory of the opposition coalition Pakatan Harapan (PH), or the “coalition of hope”, led by Dr. Mahathir Mohamad, against the corruption-ridden Barisan Nasional (BN) coalition led by former Prime Minister Najib Razak.

The role of civil society in the pro-democracy “Bersih Movement” that galvanised the Malaysian people through social media was most certainly a key factor which contributed to the democratic breakthrough in Malaysia.

The Malaysian election in May last year stunned the world by ending an era of one-party rule dating to the country’s independence in 1957; the first turnover of federal government in the country’s history.

Let’s hope Singaporeans do the same at the next General Elections and reject the PAP’s abysmal record of failure in addressing the needs of ordinary citizens for a better quality of life.

The current pro-democracy momentum across the region could well usher in a substantial change in Singapore and we should be ready to embrace that change.

Just as we do in Singapore, people around the world are struggling for a more equitable and just society, governments that are more responsive to their needs, liberation from oppressive regimes …..and they are in the main succeeding and we should take courage from these political revolutions. The global revolution against greedy ruling class bourgeoisie elites is in full swing. Come join the party.

People of Singapore unite. You have nothing to lose but your chains.

Vote Them Out.

This was first published on Khush Chopra’s Facebook page and reproduced with permission.