Desire for more political diversity is here to stay: DPM Heng
The desire for greater political diversity and more checks and balances - clearly felt during the recent general election - is here to stay in Singapore, said Deputy Prime Minister Heng Swee Keat yesterday.
Subsequent general elections will only get tougher for the People's Action Party (PAP), as the opposition will seek to deny it a two-thirds majority in Parliament, and thereafter, to displace it and form the government, added Mr Heng, who is the ruling party's first assistant secretary-general.
The PAP won 83 out of the 93 seats in Parliament with a little more than 61 per cent of the popular vote, in the lower range of its projections, and lost the newly formed Sengkang GRC to the Workers' Party.
In a virtual address to party cadres at the PAP's biennial conference, Mr Heng said the party must earn the right to lead, and urged them to be alert to what is at stake.
Sharper contestation can easily spiral into unstable and divided politics, he warned.
While the polarisation seen elsewhere has not taken root in Singapore, it is not immune to such pressures, he added, citing how anti-foreigner sentiments can be easily stirred up.
Race, religion and inequality are other fault lines that can greatly divide Singapore society, he said, calling on the PAP to do what it can to resist such pressures.
"In a turbulent and uncertain future, the PAP will need to work even harder to build consensus and create the political space for us to do the right thing for Singapore and Singaporeans."
Speaking after Mr Heng, Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong said voters had sent an "unequivocal signal" that they wanted the PAP back in power to see Singapore through challenges ahead, even as they felt the pain of the downturn and wanted more alternative voices to check the Government.
The PAP will act on feedback given by activists on its campaign, he said, stressing it must have the backbone and conviction to fight for its beliefs as political competition intensifies.
He added that the party will not give up in opposition-held constituencies: "We will maintain our presence. We will strive to win back the voters there - and one day, we will succeed."