Wednesday, April 13, 2011

UK, US? Give him a S'pore MP any day

Apr 13, 2011
THE definition of a First World Parliament seems to refer to numbers rather than quality ('WP's goal: A First World Parliament'; Sunday).

In the United States, a deadlock last week nearly shut down the government. American institutions of democracy and a First World Parliament did not stop the US or Britain from fighting a disastrous war in Iraq.

The recent British general election has perhaps put the country on the road to permanent minority governments, like those in continental Europe. In Belgium, inter-party struggles have delayed the formation of a new government almost a year after its polls.

A First World Parliament in Italy is now preventing the parties from abandoning a scandal-plagued prime minister. First World Parliaments in Iceland, Portugal, Ireland and Greece have brought the nations to the brink.

The Israeli Parliament, held to ransom by tiny extremist parties, has taken a radical approach to Middle East peace talks, making a settlement of the issue a near impossibility.

In Asia, Japan has twice, since the end of World War II, elected a non-Liberal Democratic Party government, but has the breakthrough changed Tokyo's politics? In fact, Japan has succeeded in spite of its politicians.

In South Korea and Taiwan, fights break out regularly, including an infamous instance in Taiwan's august House when human faeces was thrown. Some Singaporeans would like us to copy Britain's two-party (now three-party) system.

With more parties in a government, there will be more compromises. While this may lead to claims of a check on the government, it can also create indecisive and weak policies of little or no conviction. Some would have us believe our policies are not subject to the required level of scrutiny. Yet, the quality of our debates matches those of the House of Commons or the US Congress. We do not deal in drama or rhetoric, which is what PM Question Time on Wednesdays in the British Parliament is mainly about.

Our MPs do not plant questions. They generally do their homework. Some are not good speakers and read from prepared scripts, but this shows they do their homework. Even our Nominated MPs (NMPs) match the best in the West. In fact, when it comes to scrutinising the Government, the government backbenchers and NMPs do a much more effective job than the opposition.

In my view, we already have a First World Parliament of MPs if we consider diligence, integrity, intellect and commitment to the constituency and country. This is not to say we cannot improve. But give me a Singapore MP any day rather than one from the US Congress or the British House of Commons.

Eugene Tan

[This was posted on ST facebook page, and one comment was that the PAP does not represent all Singaporeans, discriminated against those in constituencies that voted opposition, and therefore promoted fear in the voters. My response on ST facebook page:

At least the discrimination is [by ward and] based on the majority of voters in that constituency. And despite the promises of upgrading for voting PAP, the voters still voted for Chiam and Low. So, it would seem to me they voted their choice without fear.

How is a two-party system better? How does one party in a two-party system represent the interest of all the citizens? Republicans are generally seen as pro-business. Now that they are in power you see the Wisconsin Governor trying to break the unions and the workers. How does he have the interests of all the people? particularly, the little people, the average Joe?

The Republicans voted to extend the Bush Tax cuts to those earning more than $200k (should be $250k) even as the US govt is saddled with record debt. That's great for the rich. And the poor? They have to wait for the Democrats to get back in power, don't they?

What about women? 30 - 40 years after Roe v Wade and the Republicans are trying to shut programmes for women by de-funding Planned Parenthood. How's that for discriminating against half the population?

The fact that in Singapore one party has dominance shows that most people think that this party represents their interest. It is obvious in the US that at best each party, Democrat and Republican only represents about 50% of the population on average. In the UK, and anywhere else where govt are form thru coalition, no party represents even 50% of the population. And that is good?

It seems to me that contrary to what you are saying, a two-party system is entrenching the polarisation of the voters into two camps, and neither party can ever represent the whole electorate, only half of them on average, and only a (slight) majority when the pendulum swings their way. And instead of most of the people progressing, only half at any one time will have their interests in ascendancy.]


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