Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong recently announced proposed changes to the country’s electoral system. The changes included is to increase the number of Opposition MPs in Parliament to nine for every term; increase the number of Single-Member Constituencies (SMCs); reduce the number of six-member Group Representative Constituencies (GRCs) by increasing the number of five-member GRCs; and to have more Nominated MPs in Parliament.
The official line for the changes is to encourage a wider range of views in Parliament, and most observers have welcomed these steps. That’s not the view on the Singapore blogshere. Instead of applauding steps towards a more open political sphere, most bloggers believe that these steps are just insurance for the People’s Action Party (PAP) to keep themselves in power.
The reason for this belief is that the next General Elections need to be held in 2011 and with the less than stellar performance of the government for the past few years, the PAP is expected to lose seats in the next elections. Are the bloggers right?
Yes they are but they are overstating the problem. Simply put, the PAP is in no danger of losing power anytime soon. Of course there is some strategic agenda behind the proposed changes to the electoral system, but I think the PAP to hardly the only political party in the world to changes the rules to suit their own political future. Ultimately that’s what the PAP is. They are a normal political party that is currently in power in Singapore. Does anyone truly expect them to usher in rules that will be disadvantageous to themselves?
Even if there are some naive people who believe that, it’s not like there is any opposition party in Singapore who can take advantage of the situation. All the opposition parties in Singapore are too weak to mount any credible opposition to the PAP and for the past few elections, they never even bother to contest the elections. The opposition had been under the self-defeating ‘by-election’ strategy for the past few elections and chances are that they will be on that same strategy for this coming one. Mind you, even with this picking and choosing of election seats, the PAP still stomp the opposition with over 66% of the votes in the last elections.
So my view on the proposed changes is positive. As for criticism that the changes is just insurance for the PAP; there is some truth to that but let’s be honest, the PAP won’t be needing that insurance anytime soon.