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"Electoral Authoritarianism" No More? The future of the political system in Singapore

Note: Speakers are speaking out of their own capacity and not representative of the views held by their employers.
<h4>Points from Speech by Mr Janadas Devan, Senior Writer, The Straits Times</h4>
There is an attitude of resigned realism.
Singapore had elections way before South Korea and Taiwan, but now they are seen to be more democratic than us. If there is a evolution of democracy, shouldn't Singapore be the most advanced democracy amongst its neighbours?
The PAP wasn't always as dominant as it is now. But in the course of history the communist left was decimated and the PAP was the only party left standing. PAP's rule at that time had to be established through democratic means – the diverse immigrant workforce would not have accepted the PAP's lead if it were established any other way.
An escape from material oppression throughout the region is often the driving force for political upheaval. The overthrow of Suharto happened because the citizens attributed their poverty to a lack of an established democracy. Even the American revolution was spurred on by people who didn't want to be taxed without having been properly represented in office.
Why aren't we the most democratic society in the region? "The Singapore Government is too damn good." They have delivered.<h4>Points from Speech by Mr Viswa Sadasivan, Chairman, Political Development Group, Feedback Unit</h4>
We have to accept that incumbents naturally have advantages over those challenging for the post. We have to be naive to expect political parties not to use these advantages. Like PAP said, they are not in the business of making it easy for the opposition. But there is a fine and clear distinction between "not making it easy" and "making it terribly difficult" for the opponent.
There is no question whether we are a democracy. We are. But is there room for improvement?
The presence of an opposition good enough to "pace the PAP" (analogy of a sprinter) is necessary for the PAP to improve.
Why don't we have a election commission like so many other countries? But having one doesn't mean elections would be fair, because who'd choose the members of the election commission? It won't solve the problem. We need to look at the process of electing members of the election commission and see if it is transparent, and if its members are given the tenure to do what they need to do.
Constituency boundaries. It should be clear and made known to all parties well in advance of the elections. In Singapore it is announced on average of 2 weeks before the elections. It is popular belief that this puts the PAP at an advantage. Look at the transfer of more than 15,000 voters from Marine Parade to Aljunied. This is the trojan horse effect, because most of these voters are more inclined to vote PAP. We could do a lot more to improve the system here.
Adequate and accurate information in the media to educate the voting public. I don't understand why political videos are not allowed. I don't see how this would make it a better political environment. The banning of podcasts, or "persistently political content" will only incentivise people to find a way around it.
Pork-barreled politics should be avoided. Most governments do it – link upgrading to votes. But why can't Singapore carve its own path? The government always tells us to look at the big picture. Why don't they do that over the elections? How do lifts and drainage fit in the big picture?
Voting should be secret. I believe that voting in Singapore is secret. But there is that pause just before you vote. Will that lightning…
We have a legal framework. It is not enough to be fair etc., but also to be seen by the people as such.
We have by and large a good system, but the gatekeepers need to be motivated to improve with deep introspection. A good electoral process gives the people a sense of ownership. We need to stop thinking just about getting things right, but about doing the right thing.
<h4>Points from Speech by Mr Ken Kwek, Political Reporter, Straits Times</h4>
Note: wasn't the guy "reprimanded" by Minister Mentor Lee Kwan Yew over national television?
The 1997 General Elections were labelled as "watershed" by then Prime Minister Goh Chok Tong because it signaled that Singaporeans chose the national ideology over the western idelogies of what democracy should be (according to him, at least).
But the PAP has no real ideology. It goes with whatever works.
The PAP revealed from this GE that they still believed that Singapore exists as a tiny vulerable space which requires a strong one party government. That they believe we need to give up some things in order for Singapore to survive. Where political differences by the opposition should be seen as distractions rather than contributing to the quality of discourse.
Can the ruling party change its mindset that Singapore is larger than the PAP?
The casino went ahead despite objections even within the PAP. It is not what the people want, or even what their parliamentary representatives want, but it is what the PAP wants.
<h4>Points from the Question and Answer Session</h4>
It is not the monopolising of talent by the PAP, it is the monopolisation of the <strong>definition</strong> of talent.
From someone in the audience: There is a saying "if you want to rule people, keep their stomachs full and their minds empty". The PAP has done that well for the past 40 years. The PAP has some tools to temper the mind. The PAP has successfully kept creative thinking to the economic realm and out of the political realm. The other tool is "kill the rooster, scare the monkies". They exile or corrupt people who talk too much.
Note: This is one guy we may not see in the next post-election forum.
Historically, UK anad the US were liberal before they became democracies. The only country that has made the transition to a liberal democracy is India.
MM Lee always talks about Maslow's hierachy of needs – how we need to move from the filling of our stomachs to the filling of our heads. But we have moved from bread and butter issues to croissant and coffee.
While reform is going to be very, very difficult, it is much better than revolution. Reform is in the hands of those in power. It is very hard, from my understanding, to reform from the bottom up. The top determines the speed and extent of reform.

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