Non-Constituency member of parliament Leon Perera posted a thoughtful reflection on the state of democracy in the world. He warned against giving up on democracy as economic times get harder, which could lead future generations down the path to ruin.
Read his post here.
"It is fashionable nowadays to hail "strong" leadership of the hard or soft authoritarian kind as the antidote to political gridlock. Such ideas will continue to gain traction as global economic growth slows and the spectre of terrorism looms larger. Such times as this are fertile grounds for strongman populism as electorates seek to break with the status quo to remedy economic woes.
In Latin America, amidst economic collapse, one authoritarian government has gotten their Courts to neuter the power of the Opposition-controlled legislature. In the Middle East, amidst repeated terrorist attacks, one country held a referendum (amidst strong state influence over the media) to confer vast new powers on the incumbent President. One East European country stepped up the intimidation of most organised political opposition as its economy slowed.
In Singapore, elections have been held since 1959 but the survival of what our Pledge calls our "democratic society" can never be taken for granted. In the countries described above, as economic conditions worsened, incumbent governments enhanced their powers and reduced the openness and contestability of their electoral systems, entrenching themselves in power by taking advantage of the absence of effective and electable alternative political parties.
Some would say that the same outcome could never happen in Singapore. I disagree. It could happen anywhere.
And if it happens in Singapore, it will be young Singaporeans who will pay the heaviest price. Because they will live to fully experience the poorer economic, social and political outcomes that come with much less political competition and openness.
We already have an extremely imbalanced political playing field. The People's Association, with close to $1 billion in state funds to spend every year and whose volunteers obtain state perks, works only with PAP MPs and PAP figures in WP wards. The mainstream media operates under the Newspaper and Printing Press Amendment Act and the Broadcasting Act, which give the government a strong influence over it. Our ever-changing electoral boundaries are not set independently but by the incumbent government in a non-transparent manner. The government refuses to properly educate all citizens about the fact of ballot secrecy (as was debated in Parliament in March), leading to significant levels of fear voting. Could political contestability be reduced even more in future? Possibly.
We must always resist those who promise economic prosperity if we give up or weaken democratic checks and balances. That is a bad bargain. Because under such a bargain, if the promised economic goods are not delivered, we will be powerless to do anything about it.
The flower of our "democratic society" enshrined in Singapore's Pledge "requires constant support and constant tending, with weeding and fencing off the jungle that threatens it both from within and without.""