Singapore far too small for more than three parties

PHOTO: The Straits Times

After the fire and brimstone of the election, normalcy will quickly return to Singapore, if it has not already done so.

The poor opposition performance was probably the equivalent of the drubbing the Liberal Democrats received in the British general election in May.

One can only hope that some personalities from the minor opposition parties can put aside their ego and vanity and announce that they will disband and exit the political scene.

I have said on numerous occasions that Singapore is far too small a place to accommodate more than three political parties (including the ruling People's Action Party).

It was noticeable at the early morning press conference that PM Lee Hsien Loong adopted a generally conciliatory tone.

More than anyone else, he probably realises that the embarrassment of riches he received in political capital from the election results also amounts to a huge responsibility which, doubtless, he will shoulder with wisdom and for the benefit of all Singaporeans.

We should also not forget our reality as an immigrant society.

'The abstractions of "democracy", "freedom" and "human rights" are in and of themselves important, but they appear of little concern to most Singaporeans - a people who are virtually all of immigrant stock.

Like immigrants in other polities, material concerns are Singaporeans' major preoccupation, and are likely to remain so for the foreseeable future. It is thus difficult to envisage electoral success for any Singapore political party that places political abstractions as the central plank of its philosophy, no matter the intellectual brilliance and charisma of its candidates or leaders.' (Chapter 2 on the SDP - Breakthrough, page 92)

The writer, an independent scholar and political observer, is the author of Breakthrough: Roadmap for Singapore's Political Future. The chapter from the book he cites is on the Singapore Democratic Party - whose average share of the vote in seats contested slid from 36.8 per cent in 2011 to 31.2 per cent on Friday.

This article was first published on September 13, 2015.
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