- PAP v. PAP
- GE2020: Fair or Foul?
- About the Authors
The 2020 General Election results have raised expectations that Singapore will transition to a more competitive democracy. But this is far from preordained. Nor is there a clear societal consensus that the city-state needs this amid a pandemic and its deepest economic crisis since independence.
For now, the People’s Action Party still controls all the levers of power. With the opposition still not ready to step up as an alternative government-in-waiting, Lee Kuan Yew’s prognosis still applies: the PAP’s internal dynamics will be the primary determinant of its continued viability.
PAP v. PAP expands on one dimension of this inner struggle: between a conservative attachment to what worked in the past, and a boldly progressive vision for the future. Cherian George and Donald Low argue that a reformed PAP — comfortable with political competition and more committed to justice and equality — would be good for Singapore, and serve the long-term interests of the party.
An adaptive PAP, buttressed with stronger democratic legitimacy, would also maintain one of Singapore’s most important strengths: a strong consensus on the virtues of an expert-led, elite government. Only by strengthening democratic practices and norms can Singapore maintain its edge in a world pulled apart by identity politics, populist nationalism and nativism, and an erosion of trust in public institutions.
The anthology draws from the authors’ many years of commentary on Singapore government and politics, and also includes new essays responding to the exceptional events of 2020.
Look inside the book
Singapore’s 2020 general election saw its fair share of drama and comedy, and the results were not unexpected. But beyond the polls, the hard truth is impossible to avoid—the electoral system is in dire need of an overhaul.
Former journalist and university lecturer Bertha Henson takes you through the days leading up to 10 July 2020 and peels back the veneer of Singapore politics. Aided by a team of NUS undergraduates, she draws on her past experience covering Singapore’s polls to give you a blow-by-blow account of the campaign, and some cold truths about the political playing field.
Cherian George is professor of media studies at the Hong Kong Baptist University School of Communication, where he also serves as the director of the Centre for Media and Communication Research. He is the author of four other books, the latest of which is Hate Spin: The Manufacture of Religious Offense and its Threat to Democracy (MIT Press, 2016). He received his Ph.D. in Communication from Stanford University. Born and raised in Singapore, he was a journalist with The Straits Times before switching to academia. He worked at Nanyang Technological University for ten years before moving to Hong Kong in 2014.
Donald Low is Associate Dean for executive education and research at the Lee Kuan Yew School of Public Policy, National University of Singapore.
Bertha Henson worked in the Singapore Press Holdings stable of newspapers for 26 years, her last designation being Associate Editor of The Straits Times, Singapore’s national broadsheet. In 2012, she left the organisation to start her own media consultancy, Newsmakers, and to teach at the National University of Singapore.
She is currently an Associate Professor of Practice at the Communications and New Media Department in the Faculty of Arts and Social Sciences in NUS. She started blogging at Bertha Harian the day after she left SPH employment and launched Breakfast Network, a semi-professional news website with friends and undergraduates in early 2013. The website closed its operations at the end of the year because she and fellow editors declined to meet registration requirements imposed by the Media Development Authority. She later set up The Middle Ground, which ran from 2015 to 2017. Her first book, Troublemaker, is a collection of her columns published in 2014. She still blogs at Bertha Harian.
Year Published: 2020