In an interview with ASEAN journalists, Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong gave his views about Singapore’s democracy and its stage of development. He emphasized that democracy was not about the number of opposition members put into parliament, but about the quality of discussion during parliamentary debates.
He said that the duty of the opposition was to “raise serious issues which concern the country, which offers real alternatives to the population and which then debates the hard choices which the country has to make”.
“If they do that, whether they have one member, whether they have ten members, they are good opposition,” Lee says, “If they don’t do that, you may have 20, 30 members, you are not being responsible. So, I would not go on the numbers. I would go on the substance of the debate.”
Lee also says that Singapore’s democratic system, with regular elections, has been working for the country. “It is a system which has delivered stable Government and competent Government for Singapore and one which has a mandate to govern effectively and do what Singapore needs.”
Lee says that when delivering policies for Singaporeans, his key is to look out for the interests of the people. He added however that the party cannot “win everybody”.
“In the last election we had 60 per cent of the votes. So, it is a clear majority but it is not 100 per cent. But I think that is so in any society. It is not possible however hard you work,” he said.
“I am not sure whether I would put it as what went wrong,” Mr Lee elaborated. “I would say 60 per cent is a good result. If you look at the developed countries, in Britain, they have just had an election, 60 per cent voted and about one-third voted for the Tories. So that means 20 per cent of the population have chosen this present government of the United Kingdom. And if you go to America it is also about 60 per cent voting and about 50 per cent will win you the presidential elections. Sometimes 50 per cent plus one vote. Sometimes even less than 50 per cent.”
“There are different views within the society. We try our best to bring together people so that we have a broad consensus of support for the government. You may not like everything which the government does. But on balance, you are prepared to say this Government is not bad. We vote for it.”
When asked about the death of Singapore’s Lee Kuan Yew, Lee Hsien Loong said that a new team has been in charge of Singapore since 1990.
“Well, Mr Lee retired as Prime Minister 25 years ago in 1990 and he retired from the Cabinet completely four years ago in 2011. And really a new team has been in charge since 1990 and there has been a turnover even in the new team, so I am not the second generation leader, I am the third Prime Minister.
“So in a way, Mr Lee has been preparing Singapore for the day when it carries on without him for a very long time and now he has left, it is a very sad thing that on the 50th anniversary he is not able to be with us to celebrate the success which he had such a big part in creating, but I think he has prepared well and Singapore is well set to move ahead and take our country further steps forward,” Lee said.
“Of course, we would have like to continue to have his wisdom, his advice, the confidence that he has been with us all along and that whatever happens, he can help us to see through from thick or thin, but the reality is increasingly in the last 15 years, it is a new team which has been taking Singapore, making the decisions, carrying them, persuading people or dealing with problems when they have risen and I think that will continue to be so now.”