A ‘Backfiring’ EP proposal turns into a political liability for the PAP
The proposed changes to Elected Presidency will become a People’s Action Party political liability. It will not only affect coming EP election but also the future General Elections.
The ‘backfiring’ effect will be the real test for the PAP after the death of Lee Kuan Yew.
Ideal political design of the PAP in the past is one thing. The outcome of the proposed EP design can be another thing as seen in the recent Hong Kong Legislative Council elections as well as PE2011. The Legco election results indicate the aftermath of the (unsuccessful) amendments to Hong Kong Chief Executive election. The 2015 proposed framework of 2017 Chief Executive election in Hong Kong seems to favour a pro-Beijing candidate. The framework was rejected by Legco, an embarrassment for the pro-establishment and pro-Beijing group. Of course, we should not forget the Umbrella Movement and the relationship between the movement and the recently concluded Legco elections.
The CE election is like our Presidential Election while Legco is similar to our Parliament general election. There is a co-relationship between the two.
Singapore’s Presidential election, General Election and Hong Kong’s Chief Executive and Legco elections are very unique in the world. Full democracy is missing in both cities.
However, when you give voters a choice, there is a political risk the designers of the election system have to face. Your ‘kiasu-ness’ will be exposed and you may end up a loser.
If you read Yi-jing (Book of Change), the more design inputs you put in the political election system, the nearer you reach the upper limit and the next will be a change of fortune. You create opportunities for others.
All clever designs are still subject to change and challenges. 25 years ago, Lee Kuan Yew designed the PE and now Lee Hsien Loong wants to change it. Early than the PE design, Group Representative Constituencies were introduced. All designs face challenges and we have seen the breakthrough in GRC. PE2011 shows a possibility of change. An unfair election can also create upset.
So, the ‘backfiring’ effect of the EP proposal will have direct impact on both PE and GE in Singapore.
If I were PM Lee Hsien Loong, I will go back to the ‘good old days’ of parliament appointed President as recommended by the Constitution Commission. This is a ‘kiasu’ way but the very safe way.
However, PM Lee thinks the EP requires a mandate. Mandate means there is a contest or mandate can be a walkover. Is walkover a mandate? A ‘walkover’ mandate is no better than the ‘good old days’ appointed President.
Also, enough qualified persons to stand for PE does not mean we have at least 2 candidates apply for PE certificates.
If the mandate is a contest with at least 2 candidates, then there is a political risk like the PE2011. Perhaps, Lee Hsien Loong thinks he can design PE 2017 into a contest like the first PE election in 1993 - a weak and a strong pro-establishment candidate. Again, how can he ensure the elected President in 2017 will not turn into another Ong Teng Cheong?
This is a spirit and ethic issue. And it poses a great challenge to future Singapore.
Singapore’s success is based very much on Asian value (e.g. Confucianism) and Western ethic and capitalist spirit. Both are gone now.
End of Asian value:
When Ong Teng Cheong died in 2012, it signals the end of ‘Chineses educated’ value in Singapore. Chinese schools are gone, so do the dialects and even the written Chinese. What does changing Chinese High to Hwa Zhong Institution mean? Value addition or deduction?
End of Western ethic and capitalist spirit:
In Max Weber’s ‘The Protestant Ethic and the Spirit of Capitalism’, protestant ethic is the driving force for development and industrialisation. Lee Kuan Yew in some ways represents this type of spirit. With his passing in 2016, it also ends the ‘English educated’ value in Singapore.
Singapore is at the cross road with no strong foundation in either ‘Chinese educated’ or ‘English educated’ values.
What we have are ministers with ‘profit’ orientation and no more value, mission, duty and responsibility.
However, they claim they have and they are like their older leaders.
This explains why Lee Hsien Loong needs to change our constitution so often, just to protect the continuation of the existing and future PAP (4th generation) leaders as they have lost their mission, duty and responsibility as compared to the old (first and second generation) PAP leaders.
The changes in PE and constitution is a matter of value, ethic and spirit. A man with no principal, no value will always want to find some changes to cover himself, cover his weakness.
So, Chinese or non-Chinese, does it matter? It matters a lot to Lee Hsien Loong as he wants to see the PE changes through. However, it is also a matter of cognitive dissonance.