Is the PAP’s days in power numbered?

“This is actually not a radical conclusion — almost everyone I informally surveyed broadly agreed with it, but (differed) only in their estimation as to how many years it would take before the PAP would lose an election and how many terms it would stay out of power before bouncing back,” Mr Ho added in Today.

Since 2011 when the PAP lost their first GRC to the Worker’s Party there have numerous articles, posts and blog articles that have heralded the end of the PAP’s largely uncontested rule and governance of Singapore. In his recent talk, Mr Ho highlighted 4 points that he believed would eventually put  nail in the PAP’s proverbial political coffin.

  1. Ability of government to control information will erode
  2. Increasingly difficult to hold the political center in the midst of polarising extremes.
  3. Diminution of the stature of political leadership.
  4. Maintaining the ethos of egalitarianism in an increasing unequal society.

To be frank, his points are well made. Though largely speaking his first point has already happened, the hold of the political center has been lost and finally the diminution of political leadership has been going on for years already.

The rise of alternative news websites has created new avenues of information, has created new “truths” and “realities”, and this has led to a fragmentation of the political center. This is not necessarily a bad thing. It is important for any democracy that if it wants to succeed and survive to be well informed and it needs to make informed choices. If it so happens to make bad choices, based on bad information, those sources of information ultimately become redundant or ignored. This is one possible explanation for the fall in viewership and readership of the traditional or mainstream media (though Fox News’s ability to increase viewership is potentially an exception to the rule).

The fracturing of the political center also creates the potential for a more vibrant discourse. Although this has not happened in many countries (except maybe Germany), where one party is then able to capture the centre and relies on the left and right parties (depending on the leadership) to build a coalition government. We cannot assume that a coalition government to be bad or unable to be as effective as the current supramajority that the PAP has held for Singapore’s first 50 years. It is my opinion that the more likely outcome would be the splintering of the PAP into 2 parties, with one wing being more left leaning than the other.

[Though the categorisation of people as left, right and center is rather inaccurate and I’ve only done it for the sake of brevity]

The diminution of the of political leadership is not something that is unique to Singapore, it has in fact been occurring across the board throughout the developed world. Politicians have been on the receiving end of bad press and blame the past 10 decade as one thing or another has gone wrong. From the unfunded benefits of socialist countries to the perception of failed capitalism, politicians have been blamed largely for policies that they were elected to implement. There are few politicians that live up to the high and some would say impossible standards we place on mere humans. Should we worry about what is bound to never live up to our standards.

Maintaining the ethos of egalitarianism in an increasing unequal society is again a strange turn of phrase considering that we were never an egalitarian society to begin with so there really there is maintaining of anything. If he had mentioned about maintaining the ethos of meritocracy in an increasing unequal society, that would certainly make a lot more sense. Meritocracy largely maintains that those with the most talent/effort to maximise their talent get the largest payout which is in turn beneficial for society as a whole as they will tend plow that money back into the economy.


“No matter how well conservatives do in elections, no matter how thoroughly free-market ideology dominates discourse, there is always an undercurrent of fear that the great unwashed will vote in left-wingers who will tax the rich, hand out largess to the poor, and destroy the economy.” – Plutocrats Against Democracy, Paul Krugman, NYT

The politics of the day is largely driven by fear. Fear of change, fear of the new and largely fear of fear. If the PAP did lose a majority in parliament [which I consider highly unlikely] I do believe it would be the best thing for the party. It would give them the greatest impetus to change how they operate and win back the electorate in the following elections. Let us not forget that even if they lost they would still have the largest grassroots and political foundation around which would continue to give them incredible sway in the day to day politics that largely dominates Singapore’s political scene.

So, if you are a PAP cadre member, fan or repeat voter, fret not. And if you are a supporter of one of the opposition parties, well, you’ve got your work cut out for you for at least the next 3-4 decades.

The next 20 years in one sentence

Expect that there will be tremendous political change in the coming decades, it will not be for the better in terms of driving long-term policy thinking, but as long as the independence and quality of our public institutions are maintained, we can choose to dream instead.