The question of why should the young care about the state of Singapore’s democracy – a common refrain among local youth today – came up in a gathering held by the Workers’ Party (WP) Youth Wing last weekend.
To this, youth wing president Mr Gerald Giam – a former Non-Constituency Member of Parliament (MP) – said a credible opposition party should be built now and not overnight or else, it might be “too late”.
“We will rue the day if the current governing party were to lose the confidence of the people and a group of political greenhorns or a populist demagogue were to top the polls and take over the reins of government,” wrote Mr Giam on a Facebook post Sunday.
Mr Giam’s answer was one of several on democracy in Singapore, a topic which was up for discussion by university and polytechnic students at the gathering, according to Mr Giam.
Gridlock to democracy – the inability to pass laws because of no majority party in Parliament or partisan interests superseding national ones – was quashed by Mr Giam when a participant questioned if it will happen should there be a bigger opposition force in Parliament.
Even though WP were to win one or two more Group Representation Constituencies, it would still not have enough MPs to block a two-thirds majority needed to pass constitutional amendments, said Mr Giam.
Not all obstruction of legislation is necessarily bad, he added.
“If there is a sinister piece of legislation that hurts Singaporeans, wouldn’t you want your MP to oppose it?” he proposed.
However, Mr Giam stopped short of asking for protest votes and called on voters to choose what he calls high-quality MPs to form the Parliament.
In the event a government turns rogue, Mr Giam advocated for more stronger checks and balances including what he calls a diverse and independent media.
“In good times, it’s easy to overlook their importance. However, should the governing elites turn rogue, can we confidently say that our current institutions will be able to stand up to power and say “no”, like they do in more developed democracies?” he said.
Mr Giam also observed that the increase in WP Members of Parliament after the 2011 general elections had allegedly caused the People’s Action Party-led government to introduce many social policies “to win back the support of the people”.
“The objective of democracy, or any political system, must be to improve the welfare and happiness of citizens, not to pursue some esoteric ideological objective,” said Mr Giam, observing that more opposition MPs in Parliament at that time allegedly gave citizens a bargaining chip over the government.
The Workers’ Party Youth Wing invited youth who were keen to discuss such matters to drop them a message on their Facebook page if they want to be informed of future sessions.
Photos: The Workers’ Party Youth Wing/Facebook