Saturday, November 10, 2012

Why a two-party system is boon or bane to undergrads

Nov 10, 2012

The National University of Singapore Students' Political Association recently conducted an online poll of about 400 undergraduates to gauge the views of young people on political parties and policies after last year's watershed general election. Goh Chin Lian speaks to six of the association's officers about the poll results.They are president Valerie Ng, 21, vice-presidents Ow Yau Loong, 23, and Eugene Lee, 22, and management committee members Yan Wentao, 23, Elizabeth Cutter, 20, and Dominique Wang, 21.

Nearly two-thirds of those polled said a two-party system could be a boon or a bane, depending on the parties' performance. What do you make of this result?

Yau Loong: With a two-party system, we might witness something like in the US where although Obama won, it divided the American population into the left and the right. Our country can't afford to have this division.

Dominique: I think a two-party system will hamper the functioning of the country. I support reform for the People's Action Party - more national conversation, more discussion, more voices - because that's conducive for a small society.

Elizabeth: A lot of Singaporeans don't feel that the parties are entrenched on an ideological basis. Most Singaporeans still prefer to look at the results, the pragmatics, the policies - which is why they chose "boon or bane", because they want to see the results first.

Valerie: Most of our friends don't want a two-party system, but they still want the opposition around to keep track of the PAP, like what they are doing now. They are questioning the Government, helping to be a voice for us for things that we want to check on, but could not speak up on.

(With the opposition) to keep the PAP in check, hopefully it will be more consultative and listen to us more.


Don't rock the boat

Elizabeth: You have a very entrenched ruling party. All that the undergrads have grown up with is this system. If they are happy with the way things are, they are not going to seek to change the status quo because it's treated them well. They are in university now, doing all right. It's the people who feel it's unfair who want to change the status quo.

Eugene: They said "boon or bane" because Singaporeans don't know how a two-party system will pan out in Singapore. We didn't force them to say "desirable" or "undesirable", but it also reflects a certain maturity that they know that a two-party system could work both ways - good or bad for Singapore.

[However a Two-Party system may be inevitable. In a sense, the PAP gained an incredible advantage in the 60s when the opposition abandoned the polls and de facto presented Singapore with a dominant party system. But a Two-party system seems inevitable. There is no way that the PAP will be able to please everybody on every issue. Help families and singles are upset. Help businesses and employees ask, "what about us?" Give minorities a boost and the majority may well grumble silently. ]

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