Saturday, September 23, 2006

Post No. 86: PAP’s Increased Engagement of Young Singaporeans: Sincere Desire or Enlightened Self-Interest?


First and foremost, I would just like to say that I had initially planned to write and post this up several weeks ago. However, as it turned out, I got caught up in other stuff and only now find enough time to sit down and write this.

That said, I will, in this post, be looking at this article in the Straits Times on 5th August 2006: “PAP: From Conservative to Cool”. In that article, it was reported that the PAP, in order to increase its appeal to young voters (who will become a significant political force, demographically speaking, by the next General Elections scheduled to be held in 2011), is undergoing a process of remaking its conservative and staid image to one which is more cool, hip and happening.

Well, after reading the article, besides agreeing with the writers’ viewpoint that this image makeover by the PAP need to go beyond being just a cosmetic and superficial makeover, it also seems to me that while it was implied in the article, it was not made clear by the article’s writers that this desire by the PAP to appeal more to younger voters is perhaps not an end in itself but rather it may be a means to an end.

In other words, if one is to examine more closely this project by the PAP to remake its image so as to increase its appeal amongst younger voters, it is possible for one to speculate that this project is perhaps politically motivated by the PAP’s desire to preserve its predominance in the local political scene. To put it much more simpler, the PAP may be hoping that if it increased its appeal to younger voters, they would continue to vote for the PAP in subsequent elections, thus keeping the party in power.

Well, I suppose that, recognising this possible political motivation behind the PAP’s image makeover, cynics and detractors of the PAP would most likely accuse the PAP of being insincere in its stated desire to engage more with young Singaporeans, since the primary motivation behind this increased engagement may be to maintain its own political dominance.

Yet, it should be noted that although the PAP may perhaps be politically motivated to engage more with young Singaporeans, it need not necessarily follows that it is not sincere in doing so. It may even be a situation in which the PAP is sincere and committed in its engagement in its engagement with young Singaporeans as their continued political success is dependent on young Singaporeans feeling that the PAP is sincere and committed to listening to & representing their viewpoints.

Also, it is possible for one to observe that, in this situation of the PAP wanting to appeal more to younger voters so as to win over their support, the PAP, despite popular perception, is not exactly totally immune to the popular mood of the people. In other words, despite frequent accusations of it being complacent, the PAP remains sensitive to the mood of Singaporeans and is taking steps to ensure that the people’s mood continue to be favourable towards the PAP.

In addition, it should be noted that it is perhaps a feature of party politics that political parties operate out of enlightened self-interest to represent and better the interests of the people (or at least be perceived as doing so). Thus, to paraphrase Adam Smith, it is not from the benevolence of the political parties that we expect our interests to be represented and advanced, but from their regard to their own interest.

Furthermore, though I may be stretching this a little bit too far already, it is my opinion that since the PAP is now actively wooing young Singaporeans, young Singaporeans should attempt to “play hard to get”, not only to keep the PAP on its toes but also to push the PAP into implementing positive changes and policies, which the PAP, on its own, may not decide to implement and/or take a long time to implement. I mean, why settle for a single stalk of rose, when you can get a whole bouquet of them from your “suitor”? Of course, this “playing hard to get” should never degenerate into a form of “electoral blackmail”.

All in all, while it is possible and easy to see the negative side of the PAP’s increased engagement of young Singaporeans, we need also to recognise the positive opportunities that this increased engagement create. In other words, look not only at the hole, see also the doughnut.

1 comment:

ted said...

Referring to this bit:
I mean, why settle for a single stalk of rose, when you can get a whole bouquet of them from your “suitor”? Of course, this “playing hard to get” should never degenerate into a form of “electoral blackmail”.

If the PAP is not above in playing the ungrading blackmail, why shouldn't their target audience (young people) not play the same cards too?

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