Tuesday, April 19, 2011

Singapore General Election 2011: The people as humble supplicants before the throne?

Quoting the eloquent Yawning Bread (here):

A large segment of our population understands politics very differently from the more politically aware ones. They see government — and more often than not, a People’s Action Party (PAP) government — as a given. They do not see themselves empowered to change that reality. They may be unhappy and disgruntled, but the solution to their unhappiness and frustrations is to petition the government and hope that the loftier power cares enough to respond. If deference helps smooth the way for their petition, they will gladly show it.

Government, to them, is more monarchy than republic. As for themselves, they are more subjects than citizens.

Of course they know that at election time they get to vote for their MP. But “MP” to them means quite a different thing from what it means to the more politically aware ones. The chief job of the MP, in the former’s conceptualisation of it, is not to contest policy and argue for wholesale change, but to convey their feelings and requests up. “MP” stands not so much for “Member of Parliament” but “Mover of Pleas”.

That’s what MPs are for — to move their pleas and petitions to the powers that be.  But if so, then rationality dictates that to be effective in whatever little way they can, the MP should belong to the same party as that which forms the government — the PAP. There is little reason then, to vote for an opposition party; even if they win a seat or two, their MPs will just be ignored.

And so we head into another general election. In the end, Singaporeans get the government and the system they deserve.

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