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The Straits Times

Politics In Singapore: Gauging Present Public Sentiments

MM Lee says ruling party will be voted out if it declines in quality and opposition fields a strong alternative” (Will The PAP Lost Power? What Then? (Will PAP Last?), Miss Elgin Toh).

Minister Mentor (MM) makes the astute observation – in the report “Will PAP Last?” (January 21, 2011) by Miss Elgin Toh – that despite the People’s Action Party’s (PAP) historical involvement, records and long-term dominance of the political scene, its hegemonic supremacy is not a given. Any political party cannot constantly rely on antiquated track records or relish in the comforts of conservatism in terms of policy or legislative developments; its performance as a government would primarily be judged by its present endeavours, and interactions with its constituents.

MM Lee has pointed to a strong, credible Opposition, weariness with conservatism and stability, and declining standards of the ruling party et cetera as possible rationales for the PAP’s eventual loss of guaranteed control as an administration. Naturally, gauging present public sentiments is key to determine these trends, and evaluate the perceived performance of the incumbent over a period of time.

The public plays a pivotal role in the aforementioned – not merely in its capacity as the electorate – but also in its ability to constantly provide insights and perspectives on the assortment of policies, proposal performance and agencies’ competencies. Feedback garnered from on-the-ground citizens should be reviewing constantly by the administration; but such perspectives can only be gleaned through honest and genuine engagement. The existing channels – such as policy reviews and the feedback agency Reaching Everyone for Active Citizenry @ Home (REACH) – are distant and seemingly insincere. This lack of honest dialogue is likely to promote complacency, and has driven Singaporeans to socio-political websites – online “echo chambers” – to voice their unhappiness, and simultaneously express their desires for change.

Right now, the question is not about when the PAP will lose power; the more important concern should be how Singapore can prosper without the PAP’s hegemony. While it is true that the ruling party has done considerably well given the country’s inherent limitations, it would be dangerous to assume that opting for alternatives would be tremendously risky. The variety of Opposition parties has fielded respectable candidates and put forth constructive recommendations; and would act as pivotal counterbalances in a two or multi-party system. The public has found solace in these agents, primarily because many feel like their worries and concerns have not been adequately addressed. Rationally, positive political changes – in the form of increased competition – will coerce politicians to be more sensitive, and effect greater change for the people.

Public opinion is integral; and recent sentiments have reiterated the desire for change. Political parties – both the incumbent and the Opposition – must strike equilibrium between idealism and realism; for too much emphasis on the former might leave it impossible for the individuals to reconcile promises, and actually enacting real change.

About guanyinmiao

A man of knowledge lives by acting, not by thinking about acting. Carlos Castaneda.

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