Saturday, February 04, 2006

Ted's Comments

Ted was kind enough to leave comments on my general commentary based upon observations by two of my friends. I agree with much of what he says and it does address some issues that I unwittingly left out in my prior post.

Hmm just commenting on some points you made. I would have thought that being able to cast a vote would be an exercise in Civil liberties/rights, i.e. no matter who you vote for, just the act of casting a vote is an exercise in a (arguably) fundamental right.

Yes and no. While I do agree with this sentiment, the truth is, the right to vote is actually not in our constitution (unlike other fundamental rights in Part IV). It's actually derived from an Act of Parliament so theoretically it could just as easily be revoked by a simple majority of MPs. I do wonder whether that would push Singaporeans to protest, or whether the reasoning given will be sufficient for them to acquiese to this mitigation of our 'right'.

The AG in turn argues that there is an implied right to vote based upon the fact that our political system (if you read the parlimentary debates, it turn into a mess of ideas like 'duty' and 'privilege' etc.). So I suppose the courts will generally agree with that and our democracy is safe for now.

Smaller political parties being small, have really nothing to lose by advocating populist policies, at the very least I do not see them as appealing to a section of voters (fundamentalists of whatever denomination) or else we would see the appearance of Family First Parties like in Australia. I also think there is a limit to how centrist or pragmatic any political party can be since at the end of the day no one policies looks different from the other. So it would just boil down to like you said who do you like better or as the PAP would say, the proven track record.

Our particular system doesn't work for, or perhaps to put it more bluntly, discriminates against small parties of any sort. Other than the fact that campaigning time is short (which means that you need a large party aparatus to get your name out or already have huge name recognition), our system does not reward small parties unlike a system with proportional representation. Worse still, with the GRC system now so huge and the pitiful number of single member wards, small parties would fund it even harder to even contest an elections.

With regards to centralist policies and pragmatism, it's actually a very real trend that we see in mature democracies. With the exception of the extreme right shift in the Republicans in the US. Most biparty systems, or even multi-party systems see a growing convergence in terms of the policies of the 'left' and the 'right'. So if one looks at the policies advocated by Labour and the Conservatives (even in New Zealand or the Scandinavian countries), the differences are really miniscular.

I always think it was interesting that most people say they never think the opposition parties are good, simply because the cards are so stacked against them, ever seen a PAP member protrayed in a bad media light before like scratching his backsides on TV, I highly doubt so. Yes I know you also mentioned it,

No comment. The Andrew Kuan incident was disturbing in that he wasn't even a candidate for Presidency before he was savaged by and in the Press.

Raising pertinent and relevant policies questions or issues is also highly subjective to many circumstances. Mr Chiam had raised many concerns over education issues for many years and when the PAP government finally changed their minds, do the parents in the street at the end of the day think that it's due to the efforts of Mr Chiam or the opposition? I wonder.

I don't disagree. Hopefully with such information becoming more accessible and readily transmitted, we will learn more.

On your point on what are the signals broadcasted when opposition members voted into parliament, is it that important to ponder on what the voters intentions are or what are the effects of their votes? Does it really matter that they want to have their cake and eat it"

My commentary has to be read in the light of my friends' posts. Voter's intentions and signals matter insofar as it tells us what their aspirations and desires are. The problem when there isn't the possibility of an alternative government is that one then has to strain to figure what the hell the electoral will is. After all, being in a parliamentary democracy, parliament is suppose to represent the will of the people (the 'mandate' theory of representing constituents notwithstanding), one has to be able to figure out what they mean when they cast the votes to serve them. In theory anyway =P


p.s. This is just a rough response. Hopefully I can flesh it out into a larger article.



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