Minding our Ps and Qs: Democracy and Singapore
The by-election in Punggol East is an event of the moment. The ongoing by-election represents the fourth time that Singaporeans, albeit not all, have gone to the polls in 20 months.
These elections have spanned all the available political levels, from municipal to government (the General Election) and State (the Presidential election). Over this period, the Government has reformed Ministerial pay, restructured the bureaucracy with the formation of new Ministries to bring greater focus onto social issues and initiated the ‘National Conversation’.
It could be said that the PAP has continued in political campaign mode from the General Election in May 2011. By all these measures, the past year and half has been the most concentrated period of political activity Singapore has experienced since the 1960s.
Given the contrast between the intensity of political activity in the recent period over the preceding three decades, how are Singaporeans coping?
On the face of it, they are coping well, even seemingly feeling a sense of growing self-confidence in their relations with the Government. This is a rebalancing of the power distribution necessary to maintain the functionality of democracy in fact as well as in form.
Democracy is a function of responsibilities. It cannot exist unless there is respect for the law, there is respect for political process and all concerned are invested in it. I will make some observations about what this means in practice. I refer to these as the Ps and Qs of democracy.