ST Forum: Political changes must win over younger citizens

This is an excellently argued letter by Mr Michael Wee from today’s Straits Times, which deserves to be repeated here.

Political changes must win over younger citizens

Straits Times forum, 21 May 2009

TUESDAY’S report, ‘New strategies for a new world order’, on the President’s speech to Parliament hinted at what might be, to some, political liberalisation.

Given past precedents, any change made to Singapore’s political system will certainly be implemented with caution.

Such changes must be sufficient to overturn the cynicism of younger voters who want greater involvement and participation in the political process.

Where parliamentary politics are concerned, the best litmus test for any reform to the current group representation constituency system is its ability to elect a Parliament whose composition more closely reflects political parties’ percentage of votes.

Based on the last general election, the Workers’ Party garnered 16.34 per cent of the votes, but it holds only one of 84 seats in Parliament.

In Britain, which also uses a similar first-past-the-post system, the opposition Conservative Party holds roughly 31 per cent of parliamentary seats, which reflects the 32.3 per cent of the popular vote the party obtained.

Ambiguous or seemingly half-hearted attempts at reform will only further increase scepticism.

The People’s Action Party (PAP) should accept the possibility of greater opposition party involvement and acknowledge that other parties can also bring in a fresh generation of political leaders in their own right.

If the PAP can still be elected with the same resounding confidence even after meaningful reforms to the political system, it will certainly win over more fully the younger generation of voters.

Michael Wee