La-kopi Politics – The time has arrived for the role of WP and other opposition parties to be critically reviewed

Rough Translation: La-kopi Politics 

A patron came to the restaurant to have afternoon tea. He sat for a few hours, but the restaurant owner did not mind as the customer was alone. Later, he pulled in a few of his friends, occupied several seats and in the process, denied other customers who would want to have seats to have proper meals. Everyone among his friends only ordered afternoon tea, not having proper meal. The restaurant manager looked out of the window and saw many more queuing up, signalling to him they are all there having afternoon tea, not having proper meal. The restaurant only has 80+ seats, but the number of patrons taking proper meals is fewer. The restaurant owner brought the menu for proper meals to those having afternoon tea, but they all replied him they weren’t hungry yet, causing a big headache to him.

Many have expressed concerns that WP repeatedly emphasised that they were not ready to replace the government soon after winning Punggol East by-election. 

No doubt the by-election strategy was one of the key reasons for the result, but such effect was not novel. It was adopted cleverly by Chiam See Tong many years back, but past election results were never so dramatic.

If we combined the results from the four elections held over the past two years, one has to admit that the “spring uprising” fever is not far from hitting our shore. People become sicker and more tired of government who have been in power for the longest time, egged on by news and ideas proliferated by the internet. People thus start to support power which can limit and challenge the authority held by the government. The more secrets the governing party has, the more vulnerable it is to attacks and criticisms in this open internet world. 

Half a year back in this column, in our analysis of the election trend and electorate make-up, the future change in our local politics will be decided by how in-depth the PAP would reinvent itself and whether the opposition parties led by WP prepare itself. 

The shocked look on WP’s leader face in the aftermath of the by-election showed that the party was apparently also caught off guard with the above-said “uprising fever”, despite fervently walking the ground. On the surface, the WP appeared to be responsible by repeatedly lowering the electorate’s expectation; but in truth, the WP is most irresponsible.

Like other opposition parties, the WP started off with one or two stars. Aided by the increased political awareness and the social media, the WP got a strong boost injection and surged ahead among the many small parties, and concretised its leadership position in 2011.

However, with the increased vote share and MP seats, the WP has to bear a heavier responsibility in delivering its promise. The WP in 2011 came out with the First World Parliament slogan, but two years have passed, the slogan remained empty in its true content. Even the governing party has to remind the people the silence from those WP MP voted into the parliament. 

This involves the depth of the talent reserve within the party, which could no longer just put up a one- or two-man show counting on luck or opposing votes to get into the restaurant just to drink afternoon tea.

This is thus not a normal election win, and is not a normal by-election effect; it signifies something more historical. What we are seeing is a strange political situation, with a tinge of black humour. On one side the loser lost resentfully, and on the other side the winner won worriedly. The common point is that both sides are trembling in fear. 

The WP win will likely bring our local politics towards a new dimension in the next 5 to 10 years. In the process, what are the promises WP made to the nation, what is really meant by the First World Parliament, these are questions which the WP needs to clearly defined. In other words, it has to let people know, are they in this just to run the town, maintain the cleanliness of their constituencies, help constituents write appeal letters, ie continue to drink afternoon tea while very contentedly collect their ten to twenty thousands of monthly “allowances”? 

When WP tells voters it still does not have adequate capabilities to start preparing taking over the government, how many MPs would it need to start this preparation? Is it 20, 30, or 50% minus 1? What is its belief with regards to the value system of a democratic politics? Does it have the necessary competency to point out the mistakes or mis-steps in government policies, or does it need more and smarter netizens to teach them? 

Many voters accept WP’s position that it does not have the strength. There are also people believing that WP was just hiding its actual strength, and is wise not to reveal it too early. But such evasive move will hinder the growth of opposition parties. With its own position bolstered by more votes, it will definitely squeeze out the survival space and talent pool of other smaller opposition parties. It will no doubt turn off those talents who are flocking to its camp to find out that the party is contented with its “afternoon tea” politics mentality, and this will only weaken the opposition camps.

Singapore situation is a bit unique in the sense PAP has performed very well compared with the main parties of many countries in the world. Unless the PAP can convince the citizens on its policies to prevent a wider loss in the near future, with more and more people queuing to have “afternoon tea”, it will be detrimental to true democracy when come the next election, those people drinking afternoon tea are not able to switch to proper meal. 

A large part of a modern country is run by a large civil service. As long as politicians are not with ill-intention, willing to humbly learn, it should not be a big problem with running the various country’s institutions. Singapore has always relied on elites committed to the country to fill up our civil service and army, thus there is no reason to believe the country will no longer be effective with a change in political party. 

WP should just stay put if it does not intend to run the country, just fight for 10 seats or less the next time, and allow the other opposition parties who have higher aspirations to fight for the other seats. A party without ambition, without vision and without confident actually does not help in improving the society, because it does not offer alternative route how a country can progress, or alternative views of the people. By complacently occupying many parliamentary seats just to have “afternoon tea”, it will do good to let others who really want to have proper meals to take the seats.

There are still many who are not too sure about the pros and cons of a democratic system, or clear about the good and bad of such a system. Such people exist in both camps, partly caused by the lack of education in understanding what a democracy system entails, and partly misguided by some public views and opinions.

The time has arrived for the role of WP and other opposition parties to be critically reviewed. How the citizens forge ahead is uncontrollable and unpredictable. But as Hu She (one modern Chinese thinker) said, once a pawn crossed the river, he can only charge ahead. To run politics, one has to take the “proper meal”; if not, state so clearly, and the voters can then serve the final cup of tea and send them away quickly.

by 陈迎竹

下午茶政治

起初,餐厅里来了一个食客,要吃下午茶,一坐几小时,因为只有一人,老板不以为意;后来他又拉来其他朋友,把吃正餐的客人逼走了,占了好几个座位,每个人还是只点了下午茶,不吃正餐。老板看看窗外,好几十个人排着队,都在跟下午茶客打眼色,看来都不想吃正餐。餐厅里80几个座位,吃正餐的人少了,老板把正餐菜单端到下午茶客面前,对方回答:“我们还没饿呢!”听得老板大伤脑筋。 

工人党在榜鹅东补选后,第一时间接连强调没有做好替代政府的准备,引发全社会的关注。 

补选效应固然是本次选举结果的主要原因之一,但在过去的大选中,何尝没有出现过此效应,这正是当年詹时中的妙招之一,然而过去选举的结果却不曾这么戏剧化。 

结合两年内的四场选举来看,必须承认,近年来在全世界刮起的一股风潮,正在新加坡酝酿其效应。这股风潮对于长期执政的政党产生厌腻感觉,亟思背弃,广大民众在互联网所普及的资讯与观念互动下,对限制与挑战执政者的权力变得积极与向往,也更有办法。执政党的秘密越多,越容易受到网络开放的社会攻击与批判。 

本栏在半年前曾指出,从选举风气到选民结构的分析,今后的新加坡政治变化必将取决于执政党的检讨深度与广度,以及工人党为主的在野阵营的准备功夫。

工人党领袖在补选结果揭晓后一副不敢置信的神情,说明他们虽然勤走地方,却很可能没有掌握上面说的这股潮流。而再三表态没有做好准备,表面上看来是对全社会描述自己当前的状态,降低选民期望值的负责任行为,实际上却是无厘头的不负责任。 

工人党和其他在野党一样,从一两个“明星”打拼开始,赶上政治意识高涨与互联网支持时代,获得民意的强力注射,得以在众多小党中迅速崛起,2011年一役奠定领袖群伦的基础。 

然而选票与议席的增加,也必然意味着背负越来越多的承诺。工人党在2011年想出了个“第一世界国会”的口号,时隔近两年,口号不见实质内涵的填充,当选者在国会的沉默寡言,更有劳执政党领袖向选民指出来。 

民主政治的品质很难量化,政党的能量,更未必是人头达到多少才能体现。工人党领袖一再表示在国会人数不足,难以发挥,这与执政的准备其实没有直接关系。更关键的是,有没有忽视这股潮流所可能带来的突破性局面,意识到集选区制度所可能产生的连动和巨大成果,当民意“黄袍加身”(后周时期将领赵匡胤被属下军士以黄袍加身,推上皇帝宝座,开启了宋朝)的时候,能不能随时拿起刀叉吃正餐。 

这牵涉到一个政党的人才储备机制,在野党不能再像过去那样玩一两个人的秀,凭侥幸和赌烂票得到机会进餐厅喝下午茶。 

这不是普通的胜选,也不是一般的补选效应,它的指标意义是历史性的。但也正在这当下,我们看到充满吊诡而带有黑色幽默的民主政治局面。一边输得很不甘心,另一边胜得花容失色,两边的共同点都是胆战心惊。 

工人党再次胜选的结果必将是很大可能在今后五到十年朝向新的政治局面迈进。在这过程中,工人党对社会的承诺是什么,它自称的第一世界国会是什么定义,必须清楚表述。换句话说,它是不是打算就一直干些维修、清洁、帮居民写写陈情信这样的市政管理工作,一直喝着下午茶,然后很满足地领取每个月一两万元的“津贴”? 

它在告诉选民自己实力还不足够的时候,是想着需要多少的议员当选才开始做执政的准备?是20个、30个,还是半数少一个?它对民主政治的价值系统有什么信念?对政府政策与路线的错误有没有能力向社会指出来,还是需要越来越多也越聪明的网民来告诉它? 

不少选民接受工人党的说法:没有实力;也有人相信这是工人党“潜龙勿用”避免太早出头的大智慧。但是这种回避却很可能打击在野阵营的生态,它在选票奶水浇灌下日益壮大,必将挤压其他小党的人才与生存空间,它的下午茶心态,则反过来将使得投奔其营的人才望舞台而兴叹,最终必然再度弱化在野阵营。 

新加坡情况有些特殊,行动党相对世界其他国家主流政党,有相当不俗的表现,但在未来数年,行动党若无法说服选民而持续扩大败绩,只想喝下午茶的人数却越来越多,当大选情况逆转之际,下午茶客吃不了正餐,这才是民主政治最大的歧途。

事实上,俗话说“将相本无种,男儿当自强”,现代国家的运作绝大部分依赖庞大的文官系统,政治人物只要不是心术不正,谦卑学习,国家机器运转不应该是大问题。新加坡一直以精英填补文官和武装系统,除非不信赖他们对国家的忠诚,否则没有理由认为政务官换了党就会失效。 

果真不想执政,工人党应该止步现状,下次只挑战10席以内,把其他领域让给有志的政党。没有大志、没有视野也没有信心的在野党,其实无助于社会的进步,因为它不能指出社会发展的其他可能性,为人群提供更多不同的视野,数十个下午茶客坐在国会殿堂里不思进取,不如让座给吃正餐的。 

新加坡还有很多人不肯定民主制度的好坏,或者不清楚民主制度如何好如何坏,这些人在朝野阵营都有,一方面是长期缺乏系统化的民主教育,另一方面也是整体舆论有意无意的误导。 

工人党及其他反对党对自身的角色,已经到了必须从宏观上思考的时刻。民意的推动无法控制与预测,中国近代思想家胡适有名言:做了过河卒子,只能拼命向前。要从政必须想着正餐,否则就讲清楚说明白,早点让选民端茶送客。

陈迎竹 . 早报

 

Advertisements

2 comments on “La-kopi Politics – The time has arrived for the role of WP and other opposition parties to be critically reviewed

  1. […] – CogitAsia: The Leaderboard: Lee Li Lian – SG Hard Truth: La-kopi Politics – The time has arrived for the role of WP and other opposition parties to be crit… […]

  2. Johnny Walker says:

    “A large part of a modern country is run by a large civil service. As long as politicians are not with ill-intention, willing to humbly learn, it should not be a big problem with running the various country’s institutions. Singapore has always relied on elites committed to the country to fill up our civil service and army, thus there is no reason to believe the country will no longer be effective with a change in political party. ”

    The above is wrong. The party is the rudder of the nation.

    The question none asked: should political party, present and future, be anointed with absolute power?

    No. There, I answered for you but you don’t have to take my word for it.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s