Singaporeans' desire for greater diversity and checks and balances 'here to stay': Heng Swee Keat
SINGAPORE: The desire of Singaporeans for greater diversity and more checks and balance is “here to stay” and general elections will get tougher, said Deputy Prime Minister Heng Swee Keat at the People’s Action Party’s conference on Sunday (Nov 8).
Noting that the opposition’s call for more alternative voices “resonated on the ground”, Mr Heng, who is the party’s First Assistant Secretary General, said: “Opposition parties will seek to deny us a two-thirds majority in Parliament, and thereafter to displace us and form the government. The right to lead must be earned. We must continue to govern well and win the trust of our people.”
This comes after the PAP secured a 61.2 per cent share of the vote in the 2020 election. In 2015, the PAP garnered 69.9 per cent of the vote, more than eight percentage points higher.
READ: GE2020: PAP to do more to win back support from middle-aged voters feeling economic pain, says Lawrence Wong
Mr Heng said “we must be alert to what is at stake”.
“Sharper contestation can easily spiral into unstable and divided politics,” he said, noting that political opportunists in other countries have sought political gains in the “extreme end of issues” and appealed to special interests.
“They focus on energising their base, often at the expense of other segments of society. Instead of being honest about the difficult trade-offs, they advocate unsustainable, easy ways out.”
While such polarisation has not taken root, Singapore is “not immune” to such trends.
Singapore’s openness can “quite easily be hijacked”, especially during an economic recession, said Mr Heng. For instance, complementing the small local workforce with foreigners can be used to exploit local workers’ anxieties during downturns and easily stir up “anti-foreigner sentiments”.
Race, religion and inequality are other fault lines. These differences can be “easily amplified” and used to “breed unhappiness or insecurity” among different groups of Singaporeans, he said.
“The PAP must therefore do what we can to resist such pressures. We must take an inclusive approach to serve all Singaporeans, and not pit one group against another. If our unity is lost, Singapore will stumble.”