Cracks may be appearing in monolithic Singapore

Cracks may be appearing in monolithic Singapore

IN just under two weeks, on May 7, Singaporeans will go to the polls to vote for a new government.

Actually, unless history reverses itself, they will vote for a return of the old People’s Action Party government.

They have done that in every one of the previous ten general elections since 1959.

Singaporeans like continuity and stability; not for them, the rough and tumble of adversarial politics in which the government may change hands after a ding-dong battle for the nation’s soul.

Who can blame them? The PAP has delivered prosperity in a safe environment with excellent public transport, a fabulous airport, two huge new casinos and plenty of zesty restaurants.

Of course, for those who are old or sick, or God forbid, not too bright, and who lack a pension or savings or a rich relative, then there is little prosperity and even less charity in Singapore.

It is a sink or swim place. That is drummed into kids from day one.

As the nation’s founding father, Lee Kuan Yew, has said: “No one owes us a living.”

However, if Singaporeans keep their heads down, pass their examinations, work hard, get married, have kids and stay out of trouble, the PAP looks after them very well indeed.

It is the archetypal nanny state. And who likes to change their nanny?

So, as sure as the sun will come up tomorrow, the PAP will not only win the May 7 election, but will win it in a massive landslide.

At the last polls in 2006, the party won 82 of the 84 seats in parliament.

This time, however, there will be 87 seats and a greater number of single member constituencies. That means, at least in theory, the opposition should have a better shot at winning a few more seats, perhaps up to half a dozen.

Believe it or not, that is all they need to do to put the fear of God into the PAP. After the 1991 election, when the opposition won a paltry 4 out of 81 seats, the PAP viewed it as a major catastrophe.

This time around, it is not impossible that oppositionists could again win four or more seats. They have several decent candidates like Low Thia Khiang, Sylvia Lim, Jufrie Mahmood, Kenneth Jeyaretnam and Tony Tan.

It would be nice to say their chances have improved because more than a quarter of the 2.3 million eligible voters are under 34.

Younger folks are usually more open to change than oldies, but not in Singapore, where ear-ringed young dudes in sports cars drive around with the tops up, while long-haired girls with their tops down emulate Sex and the City in spiffy Holland Park condos.

The last thing they want is change.

No, it is less affluent older folks in the Housing Development Board heartlands who suffer most from a growing income gap, rising inflation and a tidal wave of immigrants and transient workers.

They are the ones becoming somewhat jaundiced about the men in white and who will be less impressed by the PAP’s 24 upmarket new technocrat candidates.

So the heartlanders could spring a few surprises. It’s hard to know exactly where, after all, when you’re in a goldfish bowl like Singapore, it’s often tough to identify the nearest cat.

But the opposition should hold Hougang and Potong Pasir, and perhaps pick up Chua Chu Kang and even make a stab at the group seat of Aljunied.

Certainly, there is ammunition enough – from the debacles of downtown flooding and security lapses to the maladministration of the HDB estates.

And several ministers, notably Wong Kan Seng, currently the Deputy Prime Minister and Co-ordinating Minister for National Security and Mah Bow Tan, the Minister for National Development, have surpassed their level of incompetence and become electoral liabilities.

If the opposition can prevail in a few more seats it might herald the beginning of a long overdue two-party system in Singapore. And that would indeed be something to cheer.


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