Renewed PAP can meet goals without political tightening

Renewed PAP can meet goals without political tightening
Members of the ruling People's Action Party (PAP) at the annual convention held at Kallang Theatre on 8 December 2013.

SINGAPORE - Long-time watchers of the ruling People's Action Party (PAP) might have felt a sense of deja vu over the past week.

Following a shocking setback at the polls where its vote share fell to a historic low and the opposition breached a parliamentary glass ceiling, the PAP embarked on a soul-searching exercise.

This culminated in a document that updates its founding mission for a new generation, which is adopted en masse at a party convention. The resolution is then adapted into the PAP's manifesto for the next general election.

The year? 1988.

The electoral setback then came in the 1984 General Election. The ruling party's vote share dropped by 12.9 percentage points and opposition MPs J.B. Jeyaretnam and Chiam See Tong were voted into the House.

The party leadership commenced rounds of consultation and engagement with the PAP rank and file and members of the public. This went into an Agenda for Action that outlined goals like nation building and social and cultural development.

In the 2013 iteration of this process, the PAP adopted a new resolution at its convention on Sunday, also after rounds of consultation with its rank and file. At seven paragraphs, it is more succinct than 1988's 18-pager, but similar in spirit and purpose.

It pledges to uphold the party's democratic socialist ideals, and build an open and compassionate meritocracy that moderates the excesses of the free market.

The resolution will answer the question of "what the PAP stands for" in this new phase of Singapore's development, said Acting Minister for Culture, Community and Youth Lawrence Wong, who was its key drafter.

It also aligned the ruling party's mission statement with the major national shift towards social support announced by Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong in this year's National Day Rally.

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