Friday, June 22, 2012

Imagining a Post-PAP Singapore...

Some of you all may have already come across this post by David Boey in which he imagines and describes how a post-PAP Singapore, that is a Singapore following the loss of political power by the incumbent People's Action Party, will quickly descend into instability, violence and anarchy.

My off-hand assessment of Boey's imagined scenario is that it is a rather alarmist projection based on a selective set of implicit assumptions. Judging by the comments made in response to Boey's post, I was not alone in this assessment of mine. Boey however defended his post saying that he meant it as worst-case scenario projection and that perhaps he meant it as a post to provoke thought.

If Boey indeed meant for his post to provoke thought, he achieved his purpose. After reading his post, I too started to think about what a post-PAP Singapore will look like.

However, I would not indulge in coming up with a projection of what I think a post-PAP Singapore might be like; fictional writing was never a forte of mine. Instead, the political scientist in me came up with several factors, or rather questions, that would most likely shape a post-PAP Singapore.

The first factor and perhaps the most important factor (because it would affect, if not determine, the following factors), in my opinion, would be: under what circumstances did the PAP lose power? Was it a sudden, unexpected, "freak" event or was it an expected and controlled event? Was the PAP voted out in what has been termed as a "freak" election? Did the PAP lose power after a long gradual decline or did it perhaps implement a policy of gradual political liberalisation that led to it being voted out of power?

And was the process a peaceful and uneventful one? Or were there mass demonstrations calling for the PAP to be removed from power? Or, though high unlikely, perhaps it was an armed revolution or coup that removed the PAP from power? And if the process was not a peaceful one, did the state resort to suppression to try to pacify things?

Moving on, after the PAP loses power, who takes over? A coalition government with perhaps a tenuous hold on power? A dominant political party? What sort of policies does the new government introduce? And does it adopt a conciliatory or confrontational approach towards those who were part of the old order?

Also, assuming the PAP was not totally removed from the political scene, what role would they play in a post-PAP Singapore? Would it become an obstructionist opposition party which opposes for the sake of opposing and harbour hopes of returning to power? Or would it take on the role of a constructive opposition?

On that note, what would the reaction of the local civil service towards the new government be? Would it be professional and recognise that its loyalty lies with Singapore and whoever forms the government? Or would it, after so many years of working with the PAP, be so attuned to PAP thinking that it, consciously or otherwise, take a non-cooperative stance towards the new government?

Finally, how would business investors react? Would they lose confidence and exit Singapore or would they remain confident and keep their investments in Singapore?

In the end, as the above plethora of questions would perhaps show, when it comes to predicting what a post-PAP Singapore would be like, there are many factors involved and there are countless permutations for them. Nobody can thus say with absolute certainty how things will be like in a post-PAP Singapore.

Hopefully, when (not if) a post-PAP Singapore eventually becomes reality, the transition will be a peaceful and stable one with a new government that can bring Singapore to even greater heights. And if not, may the transition be one that Singapore can recover from. 

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