Of Mandates, Blank Cheques, and Diversity

Governor Blog 12 Comments

I usually do not comment on politics. My last post “The Economics of Politics?” was really meant to be more of an Economics post than on politics.

But we live in really interesting times…and that has compelled me to provide my few cents worth.

(And before you proceed further, are you from Hwa Chong Institution? You are advised to exit this post if you are. If you do proceed, you also agree to take the blue pill after you have read my post and undertake silence on social media.)

The ruling PAP government has called for a mandate, in fact, a strong mandate to rule and to bring Singapore through this unprecedented crisis.

On the other hand, the Workers’ Party urged Singaporeans to vote for them to prevent handing the PAP a “blank cheque” to govern as they please.

There has also been a lot of talk about the need for alternative viewpoints to be represented in Parliament. The PAP themselves have emphasised about how their new candidates would ensure a diversity of views and also how the NCMP scheme would also ensure that, without the Opposition needing to win at the elections.

All rather valid points.

However, what exactly does a strong mandate to govern mean? And what would be a political-equivalent to signing on a blank cheque?

In 2015, PAP won almost 70% of the votes but secured 93% of parliamentary seats. In 2011, the PAP won about 60% of the votes and secured 90% of seats. Does that mean the PAP had a strong mandate? Or does that mean “no blank cheque”?

The reason why the PAP can achieve a disproportionately higher % of parliamentary seats to votes is because of the British legacy of a “first past the post” model of political elections. There are other models, such as “proportional representation”, which perhaps would be a fairer or more accurate way of measuring and claiming a strong mandate.

Will Opposition presence in parliament mean no blank cheque? Just more than 66% of assenting votes (seats) in parliament is needed to change the Constitution…

And to be fair to the Government, as long as fair elections continue to be held periodically and entry barriers are not unreasonable (see my previous post), any blank cheque can, to some extent, be cancelled or withdrawn.

Don’t get me wrong. Political stability is important and I did cover that in my previous post. Perhaps, “no blank cheque” should be a rule that the ruling party itself applies to itself. (Hmm…sounds like the infamous “ownself check ownself?”)

Dream job(s) !

There is a little known political rule – the Party Whip (which I think is also British legacy…Wait, didnt we “Brexited” ???). According to the Government’s website for the Parliament of Singapore:

The Party Whip ensures good communication within the party and contributes to the smooth running of the party’s parliamentary machinery. The Whip lists the speaking MPs for each item of business and estimates the time required so that a sitting can be completed within schedule.

Often regarded as the disciplinarian in his respective party, the Whip ensures that there are sufficient party members in the Chamber to support the party’s position and that MPs vote according to the party’s line. Occasionally, he may “lift the whip” and allow MPs to vote according to their conscience

I hope you see the implications…And no wonder why every PAP MP now insists that cotton comes from sheep.

“Hey you! Are you the cotton producer or our MP?”

Which leads me to the key point I wish to contribute.

I think the Government is sincere about having more diverse viewpoints. However, will the diverse viewpoints be truly listened to and will they be counted?

If they are not, then the diversity may one day be lost. When we betray our conscience, it starts to decay. When we betray our conscience enough times, we no longer feel the pricks.

There is also a physics concept known as entrainment. Over time, 2 or more oscillating bodies will synchronise in vibrational frequency. The dominant vibrational frequency at the onset will eventually “prevail”. (This is a bit of an over-simplification.) This means that we may start off with good intentions of welcoming diversity, but over time, we still end up with “group-think”.

Therefore, perhaps, there is a need for some reform to our political system, so that strong mandates can be truly won and diverse views can be truly weighed in and counted. (Let’s have your views on this post as well! :-))

Once again, I am not a member of any political party and do not support any political party in particular. I support the best policies and my vote is secret. :-0

PS: Please let me know if I made any error in this post and I would be happy to correct it. Thank you.

PS: If you agree with my points, please say so in the Comments section below as I need a strong mandate to continue my writing. And if you don’t agree, please say so as well. Do not leave me with Blank Cheque to write anything I want.

Comments 12

  1. Gabrielle

    Thanks! This was really interesting!! I didn’t know about the Party Whip. It certainly explains a lot about the Parliamentary bill voting patterns…

  2. Benjamin Guo

    Very interesting read, thank you Mr Hong! I liked the analysis of how the decaying conscience and groupthink can come about.

    On the NCMP scheme, I find it a masterstroke by the government: Singaporeans are very enthusiastic about having a “strong opposition”, but not passionate enough to want to risk threatening who we think are good ministers off their post. The full voting rights is a very insidious move, and very very smart.

    S’poreans will know that they have a “voice” in parliament as the opp often calls for, but at the same time, minimal effects on the country. Very sneaky

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      Governor

      We do have a very creative Government. Many good examples. Might be a double-edged sword. But unfortunately, our birth rates remain pathetic. More creativity needed here!

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  3. Concerned Jane

    I’m a concerned ordinary Singaporean, not into politics but I believe we need people of sound mind and relevant industrial/economic background and leadership experience, as well as people who value morality and humanity in parliament and the government to formulate and challenge today’s policies. Well, people belonging to the same group can express differing views although it’s hard not to believe that there would be some psychological barriers and constraints to do so. What’s important is how persistent would such views be expressed and taken up vigorously and seriously. Diversity is meant to challenge groupthink so I too, am thinking how this can be achieved, while at the same time, giving the rights only to capable and responsible enough representatives who can see Singapore through this current volatile and difficult global environment. I am still thinking.

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  4. ปั้มไลค์

    Like!! I blog frequently and I really thank you for your content. The article has truly peaked my interest.

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