SINGAPORE — The swing in favour of the People’s Action Party (PAP) in the latest General Election may never happen again, and the PAP must realise there remains fundamental issues they cannot ignore, if they wish to consolidate their position and gain greater trust from the people, said former Member of Parliament Inderjit Singh.
In a lengthy Facebook post today (Sept 17), Mr Singh, who did not stand for election this year after 18 years in politics, dissected the strengths and weaknesses of the PAP, and the reasons contributing to the PAP’s 69.9 per cent landslide victory. Mr Singh noted that while the PAP has a good vision for Singapore, voters today are unwilling to blindly trust the party. “The worry among some Singaporeans is that with a stronger-than-expected mandate, the PAP may feel there is no need to change itself. But the general feeling among insiders and observers is that the PAP needs to continue to change to become more inclusive, listen more to people, (and) add more political judgement in policy making.”
He also urged party leaders to take victory “in humility”. “The Government’s past ‘We know best’ attitude will not work among Singaporeans in the future. Elitism is also something the PAP Government should be concerned about especially since the party continues to choose the elites to become key appointment holders.”
He criticised the party’s campaign strategies, noting a “‘gentlemanly’ campaign would have been much more effective”. The PAP, he felt, spent too much time attacking the Workers’ Party on town council issues and discrediting Opposition manifestos.
“Voters would have liked a more calculated, calm and gentlemanly approach from the PAP and even if the Opposition got aggressive, the PAP would have done better by taking the higher moral ground. Unfortunately, some leaders also went on an offensive, but some of the Opposition reacted more calmly than the PAP did. The PAP lost some ground because of this,” he said. A better approach would have been to elaborate on its own manifesto and plans for the coming years, as some of the Opposition did, he said, noting that while some of the Opposition proposals were flawed, the parties “managed to speak to the hearts of voters, which matters most in an election”.
Mr Singh singled out Mr Lee Hsien Loong and Mr Tharman Shanmugaratnam for connecting to the ground effectively, attributing 1 to 2 per cent of the vote swing to their popularity. In contrast, few of the other senior PAP leaders did the same, said Mr Singh, adding it was a “pity” not many of the PAP’s new candidates, especially those tipped for ministerial positions, stood out.
“They will now have to catch up quickly to show their strengths and capabilities as they take on political office,” he said. The PAP must also engage middle-aged Singaporeans and minorities better, noting the former group remains uncertain over their children’s prospects, while minorities felt their needs were not well understood. Mr Singh noted that certain factors that helped the PAP in this election were “one-time factors”, such as the Golden Jubilee, the death of
Mr Lee Kuan Yew and big policy moves such as the Pioneer Generation Package and MediShield Life.
Urging the PAP to develop a “new social compact” with Singaporeans, he said: “Failure to change and sticking to the old ways will be disastrous and the PAP should not betray the trust Singaporeans have placed in them as shown by this resounding victory in GE2015.”