The Presidential Election or the PAP Election?

Members of the PAP establishment, in particular the law expert Shanmugam, have time and again clarified for the public the role of the President and the limits of his powers, saying that the President does not have executive powers and has no say in policymaking. This is a strange phenomenon that can trigger at least two retorts that are not exactly compatible with each other but can work to undermine the position of the PAP:

  1. “So you are finally admitting that the President is nothing but the PAP government’s rubber stamp?”
  2. “You are rjust telling us that we must not vote for a candidate who is anti-PAP because the President cannot do anything against the PAP. But if the President cannot do anything against the PAP, why do you care who we vote for?”

In the first instance, it would seem as though the PAP is openly, if unwittingly, making a mockery of the farcical political system that it has created. In the second instance, the PAP is showing itself to be unable to conceal its anxieties. Its behavior makes it seem like a petulant kid who has a lot of growing up to do. Furthermore, simply by appearing so worried that the next Elected President may not like them, the PAP is single-handedly feeding the persistent suspicion that perhaps—just perhaps—the Elected President may be able to be more than just an expensive rubber stamp. The multiple reminders we are getting about the role of the President may seem like a lowdown way of pushing the people to vote for the candidate endorsed by the PAP. Silly political hard sell tactics discount the credibility of the PAP and that of the candidate who is preferred by the PAP.

In other words, it would actually be wise for the PAP to just shut up. The more anxious the PAP appears, the more the people get the idea that they are afraid of an Elected President who wants to check their powers. And the more they seem to be afraid, the more faith we have in such a President. The PAP’s obsession with having its way by ideological hammering may even erode the good will that an apologizing Prime Minister had managed to coax out of the electorate.

One other retort people might have to all the “clarifications” is simply: “If the President does everything as ‘advised’ by the PAP government, then why the hell are we voting?” If it’s all about who the PAP likes and how it wants everyone to choose, let the PAP vote and decide everything. And call it the PAP President. There is no need to have an election so that it seems that the Singapore citizens actually think like the PAP and risking the possibility that the people actually think differently.

Whether it is the General Election or the Presidential Election, it is typical of the PAP to forget that elections are not about objectively evaluating candidates based on a common standard, much less the one standard set by the PAP. No one can really interfere if I frivolously decide not to vote for someone because I hate his hairstyle. No one can stop me from voting for a candidate who hates the PAP’s guts despite knowing very well that he is unable to do anything against the PAP. Elections necessarily allow for multiple standards. It is not a matter of objectively marking three exam scripts according to a rubric imposed by the government to see who scores the highest marks. We do not even need to read the introductory chapter of a dumbed down idiots’ guide to politics to understand this. But even experts on the law and seasoned politicians can be absolute airheads when it comes to understanding the workings of politics if they are used to dictating others.

There are, without a doubt, those who try to tell us what standards we should have when deciding who to vote for. People do not call Singapore a nanny state for nothing. Shanmugam, for instance, tries to tell us that we gave to consider who has the knowledge and skills to protect Singapore’s reserves, amongst other criteria. He even tries to tell us what we should not take into consideration: “What I would call the ‘wrong questions’ would be: Who is going to speak up publicly? Who’s going to contradict the Government? Who’s going to engage publicly on political issues? These are wrong questions because the president can’t do any of these things.” (Source) Has the Presidential Election become a multiple choice question where the right answer is obvious?

Has the Presidential Election become a guessing game in which we are supposed to guess the PAP’s favourite? It is reported that “Mr Shanmugam said that Singaporeans should ask [. . .] who can influence the prime minister and Cabinet.” In Shnamugam’s words: “Whether the president actually wields influence obviously depends on who the president is. If he is someone who commands little or no respect of the prime minister, then of course influence will be limited.” (Source) In short, according to Shanmugam, we have a Prime Minister who will be influenced by someone he respects and not by someone he does not. You mean the Prime Minister does not consider proposals and views objectively, but allows himself to be influenced by those he happens to respect? I am reminded of our good old Asian values about filial piety and respecting one’s parents. Applying Shanmugam’s theory, will our Prime Minister be influenced by, say, his father whom he surely must respect very deeply—never mind what views the father has?

Thanks to Shanmugam, we might just have stumbled upon a theory that explains the state of politics in Singapore.

While Shanmugam’s words are certainly enlightening, we have to ask another question. What if the Prime Minister only respects people whose views are congruent to the PAP’s? Firstly, this would of course mean that a President who takes it upon himself to check the PAP’s power and whose views may clash with the PAP’s will have no influence. (Shanmugam’s rhetoric: Why vote for someone who has no influence?) Secondly, it would mean that a President whose views are in line with the PAP’s will be influential when there is no need for any influence. In other words, it no longer matters if we have a President. In fact, the only possible influential President is one who serves as an ego boost to the PAP. No doubt, this is if the Prime Minister only respects those whose views are the same as his party’s. But would anyone like to give me a non-debatable example of a person who is respected by Lee Hsien Loong but whose views run counter to his? (Molly’s rhetoric: Isn’t it worse to vote for someone who has the influence to make the PAP more full of itself than to vote for someone who has no influence at all?)

We realize, and lament, that, the Presidential Election, like everything else in Singapore, is about the PAP. And the PAP is about tyranny. As if tyranny over the people is not enough, it is moving on to tyranny of semantics. When Shanmugam tells us that the President “must follow the advice of the Cabinet in the discharge of his duties,” he is practising his usual irritating verbal twist. Since when has it become obligatory to follow advice? The correct word is “orders,” not “advice.”

We should acknowledge that the Elected President of Singapore is unlikely to be able to do much to check the PAP government. But this only reminds us of the importance of not letting the PAP have its way all the time. We preserve some dignity by trying despite the impossibility of triumph. I would advise all Singaporeans to vote for someone who does not draw millions of dollars every year by masturbating the PAP. Of course, given the new definition of advice, I doubt I’m even empowered to advise.


17 Responses

  1. He is scared like his masters, I guess. Otherwise why would he and his gang have to keep on at it like a broken record. They are scared, very scared for I believe very good reasons.

  2. The minister can influence the citizens through his release.. “Whether the minister actually wields influence obviously depends on who the minister is,” “If he is someone who commands little or no respect of the citizens, then of course influence will be limited.’”
    Hey minister, it has been emphasized since time immemorial that the president has a check and balance role, and one cannot preclude the possibilities of conflict in views with the policy makers. Responsible citizens wouldn’t be taking this lightly, so chill out and stop getting nervous 🙂
    By the way, I’m not sure if anyone is aware what it means to have a minister behave unconstitutionally, but I prefer not to go down THAT way.

    • Hehe, ministers won’t behave unconstitutionally lah. Because if they want to behave unconstitutionally, they just change the constitution so that it won’t be unconstitutional anymore.

  3. Well written – prescient, understanding and insightful. Keep up the good writing.

  4. Brilliantly written piece, absolutely love it!!! I find that sorry excuse for a Law Minister really annoying too. The PAP is tyranny, but this tyranny is approaching it’s expiry date. 🙂

  5. This is the clearest piece of writing I’ve read on the farcical, fantasy president. I love the irony of the trap into which the PAP has set for others but instead has itself fallen.

  6. There goes the mistake PAP so often does,the last time Mr.Lee Kuan Yew’s arrogance swept Aljunied off PAP’s field,and now Shanmugam.I sometimes wonder if the PAP really thinks we Singaporeans are so dumb?
    I sincerely hope that Mr.Lee’s government does not step on and make grave mistake of making their favourite as the next president,unless,Mr,Shanmugam wants to go back to practice law?

  7. Unless the powers of the new President are reviewed,PAP will have another shock in the next general election.Please stop all your arrogance and step out and tell us all that is about us,the people.

  8. Molly Meek,
    PAP is just treating Singaporeans like a fool for past 4 decades. Those clowns are the one who make the rules for constitution, and yet they use the constitution as a puppet to perpetuate their oppression act as though the rule is made from heaven !

    It goes this way :
    Lesser mortals: There is no constitution or law that says that president cannot speak up against PM and cabinets against PAP policies that against the nation interest.

    PAP Lawyer asshole: Really. Hmmm. Don’t worry. Come back tomorrow, and re-read the latest update to the constitution. We will add a new rule to ensure that no president can go against the interest of PAP.

    Lesser mortals: What ? The PAP can suga suga add a new law as they wish and as they like. Sound like corruption to me !

    PAP Lawyer asshole: Watch your words. We can sue you for defamation. This is not corruption, this is just business as usual. If this is business as usual and modus operandi of PAP then this is not corruption. Now back to the amended constitution, it says that president has no such power. You need not agree with PAP but you must obey the constitution.

    Lesser mortals: You asshole are the one amending the constitution like Old fart and now you telling me to obey the kangaroo constitution ?

    PAP Lawyer asshole: It can’t be help ! What to do, it happens !

    • Just change the constitution to include something saying that no other party can be in power but the PAP.

    • Still doesn’t hide the fact that alot of ****ing coward Singaporeans voted the PAP in and the politicking done as you said above is by default meted out the “mandate of the people”. Hopefully this time round Singaporeans learn from their mistakes. I laughed at the fact that so many PAP supporters are complaining at public transport fare hike coming up soon. Haiz…. By the way “kangaroo” this word might land the “lesser mortals” in bankruptcy due to defamation lawsuit. Used “wallaby” instead. Its a tree kangaroo. 😀

  9. […] Shanmugam “clarifies” for us what the Constitution says about the role of Singapore’s Elected President. Next, he […]

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