The PAP prepares for its elections early. There is nothing unusual in that. I think there are some early signs that the ground is being prepared for the next GE. I know. We had the last one in 2006. But, a GE after 3 years is not unusual in Singapore. I predict that there might be one towards the end of next year.
Recently, MM Lee warned Singaporeans about a freak election wiping out all that has been achieved in 5 years. SM Goh spoke virulently about winning Hougang back and urged members of grassroots organisations (who ought to be non-partisan) to question fiscal capabilities of opposition run town councils. We have seen a series of articles about the Singapore brand of governance, always intended to differentiate ourselves from Western-style liberal democracies and to defend our pragmatic bread and butter theory of governance. (A certain someone said 2000 years ago that men shall not live by bread alone.)
On 21st July 2008, the Parliamentary Elections (Amendment) Bill was tabled in Parliament for the First Reading. Of course, I wondered if they were going to change the electoral system a little bit here and a little bit there. A cursory glance of the Bill reveals that the amendments are directed at overseas voters.
In today’s Straits Times I read that MM Lee has again warned Singaporeans against voting for the opposition. The latest assessment is the Singapore miracle could disappear within 3 to 4 years; not 5 years. In an earlier post, I have addressed this issue of a ‘freak’ election. What I find interesting about the statement in today’s paper is that to placate our desire for more opposition voices, the system might make some accommodations.
'We know that Singapore wants opposition to check the PAP. We'll find a way to have more voices inside the assembly, but not at the risk of voting in a Division 2 or 3 Government.' - MM Lee
I wonder if there are now plans for more Nominated MPs. Maybe, elected Nominated MPs. MPs nominated by a Parliamentary Committee and presented to the people for an island-wide election where the best vote winners get seats. Who knows… I better not give them funny ideas.
I digress… Coming back to my original point, it appears that there is some talk in the air about elections. Not talk of the obvious kind. That would commence when the Straits Times comes out with some opinion piece or other about elections or electoral boundanries. (wait a minute - didn't they recently discuss the GRC system in ST?)
At a time when we are facing inflation and there is a segment of the population that has not experienced wage increases for the last 10 years, some would say it would be foolish for a ruling party to start talking about elections. But, the PAP is very well experienced. They are not going to call for elections the minute talk about elections has been put around. Eventually, they will wait for the 3-year mark to be crossed. The current global economic climate is somewhat uncertain. We will feel some of the effects and it is possible that this would be status quo for the next few years. So, the best strategy would be to get the people to look ahead long term, bite the bullet and stay the course. If this rhetoric of freak elections, our brand of democracy (that we ought presumably be xenophobically proud of), alternative ‘voices’ (not votes) in parliament, economic fragility, etc is maintained for about a year, it will sink into the collective psyche and form part of the overall narrative for the citizenry to accept more PAP years.
But, if the ground is not sweet towards the end of next year, I wouldn’t be surprised if the GE will be held off until a sweet spot opens up. So, since I’m not really a betting man, I’m not making any predictions. :-)