Voters Are “Free Riders” If They Don’t Vote For Who Forms Government, Says PM Lee

During GE2020, there were shots fired on every side of the political spectrum.

On one hand, the opposition, like the Workers’ Party, campaigned on the premise that voters should make their vote count.

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These parties called on voters to use their vote to bring more diversity to Parliament.

On the other hand, the People’s Action Party warned that voters must vote for the party they wish to govern.

This issue came to a head again on Wednesday (2 Sep), as PM Lee brought up something he heard from Senior Minister Teo Chee Hean.

Voting for opposition in name of diversity

PM Lee was making a speech on Singapore’s Covid-19 response in Parliament today.

A middle-aged voter had asked Senior Minister Teo on the 2nd last day of the GE2020 campaigning about something that concerned her, PM Lee said.

She’d heard from others that it’s okay to vote for opposition candidates as the PAP will remain in charge.

The voter also heard upgrading programmes promised by the PAP would come to fruition even if voters voted for the opposition, shared PM Lee.

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This way, they could have 2 sets of people serving them, instead of 1.

PM Lee calls citizens who voted on this criteria “free riders”

The lady had raised these points to verify with Mr Teo if they were true. PM Lee claimed that she thought something was very wrong with the premise.

PM Lee went on to call voters who made their decision based on this criteria “free riders”. He urged them to vote on the basis of who they wanted to form their government, and nothing else.

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He claimed that things may reach a point where too many voters rely on others to vote in the PAP, resulting in them being unable to form the government.

Pritam Singh responds to “free riders” comment

In response to the assertion that opposition voters are “free riders”, Leader of the Opposition Pritam Singh fired back, saying that the situation is exactly as voters wanted.

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He gives examples of cases where opposition MPs are not fairly represented in Singapore’s political framework.

Meet-The-People (MTP) sessions are one example, where opposition MPs have to conduct them in void decks, while PAP MPs can use dedicated offices.

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Voters want more diversity and representation in Parliament and not a PAP super-majority, hence explaining why they voted in this pattern, Mr Singh said.

This is why he and his colleagues must be responsible in their roles as MPs, since it’s what’s been asked of them.

Pritam Singh quotes LKY about party governance

Mr Singh further elaborates on how a government must not fall if a party is voted out in an election and a new government forms.

He quotes Lee Kuan Yew from the Singapore Chronicles book, published by The Straits Times Press in 2019:

“At the end of the day, if you’re running the system properly, you must have a distinction between the party & the government so that the machinery is there for the next party to take over…(the government) is not going to collapse,”

Opposition representation in Parliament

Mr Singh then says that he doesn’t intend to form the Government. However, he believes strongly that there should be opposition representation in Parliament.

He went on to defend voters who had brought Workers’ Party members into Parliament and said they may be justified in voting for an opposition candidate.

However, PM Lee is unlikely to be swayed, and thinks that voters should vote for who deserves to lead the country and not for diversity purposes.

This is because the system will fail if everyone votes this way, as he’s shared during the debate.

A more diverse parliament

Regardless, he recognises the need for opposition by having more Non-Constituency MPs. Recognising Mr Singh as the Leader of the Opposition is also a step towards making Parliament more diverse.

Whether 10 MPs plus 2 NCMPs in Parliament is enough for voters may well be an issue in an upcoming election. We shall see.

Featured image adapted from Channel NewsAsia on YouTube