Kuan Yew: Two-party system won't work


THERE are historical reasons why a two-party system has not evolved in Singapore, Minister Mentor Lee Kuan Yew said during a forum with university students on Monday. 

Constitutional theory teaches that a two-party system can come about if there are two parties with a lot in common.  

But in Singapore, the political parties fighting for power in the 1950s and 1960s were a motley group with nothing in common. 

Replying to a question on the lack of “political competition” here, Lee told Swedish student Carl Olen, 22, who is studying at the National University of Singapore on an exchange programme: 

“In Singapore, if you care to look up our history, the choice when we first went for elections in 1955, the first semi-universal suffrage, was between English-educated, more or less right-wing parties that believed in working with the British gradually towards independence; a Chinese-language party consisting of Chinese merchants; a conglomeration of woolly-headed professionals and trade unionists calling themselves the Labour Front; and the People’s Action Party (PAP), which also carried in its midst communists.” 

After a few years, the fight was narrowed to one between “Marxist Leninist Maoist communism and the Fabian-like democratic socialism” of the PAP. 

“It was a fight to the finish – whichever party won would create a totally different system. 

“In contrast, constitutional theory taught that a two-party system would emerge if two parties shared common objectives but had some differences in policy,” Lee said. 

“Party A is in office, Party B in opposition. They have differences on policy but they share certain basic objectives. There’s enough commonality in the total approach.  

“As my constitutional professor used to tell me, if one side is fundamentally opposed to the system, then it will not work because once he gets in, he says all of this is rubbish and the entire system is disrupted. 

“Having won power and defeated the communists, the PAP was under no obligation to create an alternative. 

“You show me one country where the party and government prepare their alternatives and I will study your example carefully. The job of any party is to make itself effective, dominant and win the next elections,” Lee added. 

“In Singapore, the PAP stays relevant by absorbing new ideas and talent. 

“The reason why we don’t have an opposition is because when you go to elections, the quality between what the opposition offers and what the government offers is so different.” – The Straits Times/ANN 

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