Saturday, April 16, 2011

Flawed understanding of multi-party system

Apr 16, 2011

I REFER to Mr Daniel Yew's commentary on Thursday ("Is a multi-party system good for S'pore?"), in which he uses the analogies of a committee and an army to highlight the pitfalls of a multi-party system.

Both analogies are flawed.

Having a multi-party system is not akin to increasing the size of a committee. Rather, it is analogous to the view that a committee should be made up of different members of the company. Whether it is for a dinner and dance event or improving productivity, committee members are usually appointed from different departments to ensure proper representation of the company.

Similarly, his suggestion of widening the input of ideas in the army by consulting every soldier, as an analogy of a "many views" system gone wrong, is like asking the Government to consult every Singaporean. No, this is not what a multi-party system entails.

[So far so good. Multi-party system is not the same as direct democracy.]

He also mentioned that an army is best led by an able general who draws upon the advice and experience of his general staff. But isn't this a fine example of a multi-party system? The commanding officer listens and consults not just his rifle company commanders who lead the fighting forces, but also the support weapons and logistics commanders on support, back-up plans and contingencies. Isn't that what a multi-party system is for?

Khong Kiong Seng

[No. A general who consults all his unit commanders is like the Prime Minister who consults all his Ministers, who by the way are from the same party. A less dominant party with more opposition MPs is like a general with fewer advisers as unit commanders are lost to the enemy, or units are commanded by whichever is the most senior officer as key commanders (Minister-calibre MPs) are lost in battle.

But I take the point that the army is a bad analogy, as is the committee analogy.

Because the opposition party in  parliament has no role other than to question and to object to the proposals of the ruling party. They can of course agree and support some of the ruling parties proposals but if they support ALL the ruling party's initiatives, why are they in Parliament? How are they opposition? They can of course offer suggestions and amendments that they believe will improve the ruling party's bills, or they can even propose their own bill for debate (just as Walter Woon did for the maintenance of parent's bill, and he was just an NMP). BUT the ruling party is under no obligation to accept their suggestions or amendments, and they have no leverage to force the ruling party to amend or withdraw the bill for those requiring a simple majority. For those that require a two-third majority, if there are enough opposition, they can block such proposals (usually to amend the constitution).

So if the previous writer has misunderstood the scope of a multi-party system, this writer has not shown a clearer understanding either.]

Apr 16, 2011
Multi-party system can address talent shortage

MR EUGENE Tan gave examples of countries having two- or multi-party systems that failed miserably or ran into trouble and concluded that a one-party system is better ("UK, US? Give him a S'pore MP any day"; Wednesday).

But is it simply because of the nature of a multi-party system or are there other reasons? I doubt converting to a one-party system would help those countries to do better than they are today.

I think it is down to the quality of people chosen as leaders rather than the failure of the system itself. If you had ineffective people operating in a one-party system, it would failed as well.

[True! Very true! Signs of higher order thinking? Or just pure fluke? After all, even a stopped clock is right twice a day.]

Singapore has done well thus far because of the quality of its leaders rather than the system itself. But can we guarantee that this will be so in the future?

Indeed, Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong has said that there is a lack of talent in Singapore. If that were so, all the more reason we should adopt a multi-party system so that we can cast the net wider in search of talent.

We should not accept a one-party system simply because there is a shortage of talent. Rather we should find ways to solve the shortage problem.

Tan Wei Cheng

[And... this is a stopped clock apparently. ]

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