Yes to two-party system: Yahoo! users

Alicia Wong

PM Lee Hsien Loong said a two-party government is not workable in Singapore. (AP Photo)

Can a two-party system exist in Singapore?

"Yes," responded users by an overwhelming majority to the above Yahoo! Answers question we posted last week.

Last Wednesday, Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong was reported as saying that a two-party political system is "not workable" in Singapore because there is simply "not enough top talent".

According to PM Lee, a two-party political system would lead to weaker governance.

Of the near 90 responses on Yahoo! Answers, however, almost all users felt a two-party system was worth at least a shot, and some were even willing to have one "A team" and one "B team".

Their main reason: check and balance

User Viktor said, "It has nothing to do with the competency of the ruling party, but it's a simple matter of 'check & balance'."

It would "ensure (that) what we have built or achieved today is being protected," he said.

"I think the current party is doing great, but like any great hero or great organisation, when left unchecked … just may go off the path and Singapore cannot afford that mistake," he said.

"It is not about how many 'A' teams or talents (Singapore has). It is about passion and (a) heart for this land," wrote Hellcat.

"As far as I am concerned, I am willing to give the two-party system a try. Why? Because, the current one is out-of-touch and just too money-oriented," he added.

In times of crisis such as in the 1960s, a one-party system was good as it allowed the government to steer the country without interference, but times have changed, said tamsan, who noted that the opposition have "recruited some well qualified people, too".

"Our education system has produced a whole lot of mature-minded, experienced men and women who are as talented as those who (have) joined the ruling party," he said.

Some star candidates that have been revealed so far include the Workers' Party's Chen Show Mao, a corporate lawyer, and Singapore People's Party's Benjamin Pwee, a former senior civil servant.

Another question that popped up was whether a lack of talent really exists  in Singapore.

Does such a lack mean there is a problem with the education system, some wondered.

User angry noted that the issue is not about a lack of talent, but that these talents are fearful of joining the opposition.

A minority of users, including user wong Kwai, agreed with PM Lee's comments.

"Instead of forming a single strong A+ Team, a two-party system will split the limited number of talents into two equally strong B Teams... why settle for mediocrity?" questioned wong Kwai.

User Malfoy T said, Singapore is not ready for a "true blue two-party type government". He felt the opposition needed more time to achieve the required "maturity, depth and sophistication".

"Singapore is after all, a 'branded' country, where brands command a premium …. Can the people of Singapore identify with someone like Low Thia Khiang or Sylvia Lim, as a potential PM?" he added.

Local author and political watcher Catherine Lim told Yahoo! Singapore that PM Lee's assumption of talent shortage is "open to challenge".

"Surely, at this stage in the development of our society, there are enough men and women with the intellectual calibre, professional standing, moral fibre and personal dedication to be good leaders," she said.

Many Singaporeans could "surely meet" the "PAP model of governance", which primarily calls for "efficiency, discipline, hard work, integrity and commitment", she added.

"What the PM probably means when he laments the scarcity is that there are not enough Singaporeans who would prove true to the style of the PAP model of governance, that is the style laid down by (Minister Mentor) Lee Kuan Yew," said Dr Lim.

She described this as a "stern, no-nonsense, unrelentingly pragmatic, humourless, top-down approach in leadership that rules out those who, by nature or inclination, are charismatic, glamorous, individualistic, independent and boldly creative".

She added that having the PAP split into two parties — an option PM Lee revealed the party had once considered — would not work since both parties would still adhere to the same model of governance.

Dr Lim suggested one future scenario:  PAP leaders who have left the party because of differences with others re-emerge and come together to make possible a viable two-party system.

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