Tuesday, 27 November 2018

Taiwan midterm elections results – lessons for Singapore?

The Broad Outline: The Democratic Progressive Party (DPP), President Tsai Ing-Wen’s party lost big. The DPP is seen as “pro-independence”. There were scepticism about the conduct of the elections, with accusations that China was manipulating social media to undermine the DPP and their candidates, to create an outcome favourable to China’s interest, and to lead to the eventual ouster of President Tsai.

So what? How does this affect Singapore?

Firstly, as a general principle, any open, democratic elections can be manipulated by foreign powers. Trump can deny all he wants, but there is credible evidence that the US 2016 elections had foreign interference. China may or may not have interfered in Taiwan’s recent elections. But let’s be clear. They COULD HAVE. If they wanted to. Did they wanted to?

Secondly, the election also put several questions up for referendum. Half of the questions related to LGBT rights. The results showed that Taiwanese voters were opposed to same-sex marriages and other policies supportive of LGBT. I don’t know about you, but my impression of Taiwan and Taiwanese is that they are more liberal than Singapore and Singaporeans.

But say I am wrong, would you think that Taiwanese are AS liberal as Singaporeans? Or are you of the opinion that Singaporeans are MORE Liberal than Taiwanese?

Assuming Taiwanese are AS liberal or MORE liberal than Singaporeans, then it is likely that a similar referendum in Singapore would find the same result – that most Singaporeans opposed gay-friendly policy and rules. And that maybe the SG Govt is right: that s377A is a reflection of our conservative values and norms. And that it is right that s377A is left in our law books.

But, no. There is a gulf of difference between saying gay sex is wrong, and gay marriage should be legally supported. The referendum in Taiwan wasn’t whether gay sex should be criminalised/decriminalised, but whether the state should recognise same-sex marriages. One can object to same-sex marriage, without going as far as criminalising gay sex.

So, no.


Because that still leaves the question of whether Taiwanese are more liberal than Singaporeans, and whether their opposition to same-sex marriage extends to support for criminalising gay sex. I am reasonably certain (in the absence of an actual referendum) that Singaporeans would NOT be more liberal than Taiwanese and support same-sex marriages.

BUT… it would be a tremendous leap of logic to extend that (assumed) opposition to same-sex marriage to support for keeping s377A in our laws.

In other words, we don’t really know.

So then, what’s the takeaway for Singapore?

Referendums don’t solve problems/don’t answer questions?
Referendums may cause more problems than they solve (e.g. Brexit, and maybe even Merger with Malaysia)?

Thirdly, if you absolutely HAVE TO have a referendum, keep it simple, short and easily comprehensible. 10 questions? Probably too many.

Fourth takeaway for Singapore doesn’t actually arise directly from the election or the election results, but concerns our foreign policy, specifically in regard to China and other Great Powers. The DPP (and Tsai) are open about their desire for Taiwan to be seen as an independent and separate sovereign nation. This puts them in open opposition to China. Brave? Or foolhardy?

Singapore as a small country has trod lightly around the great powers. Particularly one as insecure as China.

Singapore's general policy of being friend to all, and to speak softly, helps.

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