The senior member of Peoples’ Action Party (PAP) Tharman Shanmugaratnam admitted in a Facebook post on Sunday (19 July) that the results of GE2020 was “good for Singapore” but it has changed the country’s politics “permanently”.
He explained in his post that the outcome of the election was good for both PAP and the alternative parties.
“The results were good for the PAP, for two reasons. First, it secured a solid mandate. Trust in the PAP to run government and do what is best for Singaporeans is intact. Second, the swing in votes (though from the unrepeatable high in 2015) is leading the party to review its own game so as to win the hearts, and not just the minds, of a changing electorate,” said Mr Shanmugaratnam.
In GE2020, the PAP managed to secure 61.24 percent of the votes, which is less than what is garnered in GE2015 (69.86 percent).
In the post, Mr Shanmugaratnam also pointed out the election results were also positive for the alternative parties.
“The results were also good for opposition politics – and not merely because they won more votes collectively,” he said.
He added, “The stronger vote for the WP than others, with its more reasonable brand and eschewing of campaigning around a single political figure, reflected a discerning public and a political culture that bodes well for Singapore.”
If that’s not all, he also said that the alternative partied fielded more “credible” candidates, something which the PAP did as well.
However, the politician, who was part of a team of five that won Jurong GRC, said that the alternative parties benefitted from another major factor.
“When the PAP with its long-standing, dominant position contests in the GE, people hold the PAP and opposition to different standards – that’s human nature. It also reflects a desire among Singaporeans for a new balance in politics.”
Following the results of GE2020, Mr Shanmugaratnam said that all parties have to work together to “make this new balance work well for Singapore.
He explained that this will happen if a “vigorous and informed debate” happens in Parliament between PAP and the opposition on different policies that they stand for, “with both sides treating the other with equanimity”.
“Our aim, in both the government of the day and the opposition, must be to serve Singaporeans’ interest through policies that can stand the test of time – rather than gain popularity today by telling people what they would like to hear, or promising benefits without revealing the costs and making clear who will bear them,” he noted.
He continued, “We have to do more to achieve social justice, but in a way that enables it to last – strengthening social mobility; raising the pay of our lowest income workers without risking unemployment; ensuring middle-aged Singaporeans continue to have good careers; giving greater peace of mind to our retirees and being able to sustain the benefits for them over time.”
Values of a democratic nation
In the post, Mr Shanmugaratnam also highlighted that all democracies face different challenges, including Singapore, and they must be addressed in a way “that reflects the changing aspirations of Singaporeans”.
– We must be a democracy with a strong centre, even as politics gets more contested – avoiding the polarized politics that many other democracies have drifted into.
– We must be a democracy that keeps working to promote multiracialism in society. That’s already our strength, and it’s what evades most societies, but we must strive to build on it in the coming years. It must include efforts to breed closer interactions as kids grow up, and to reduce the soft or implicit disadvantages that minorities still face in many workplaces.
– And we must be a more tolerant democracy, with greater space for divergent views, and a more active civil society, without the public discourse becoming divisive or unsettling the majority.
As such, Mr Shanmugaratnam said that it will do good for Singapore to evolve in these three ways. This is because it will help make sure that there is stability in Singapore’s democracy in the years to come.
“And they will tap on the energies and ideas of a younger generation of Singaporeans and their desire to be involved in public affairs,” he concluded.