Sunday, 27 May 2018

Primus Inter Pares

It means "First among Equals".

There was a news article on or around 21 Mar 2018, wondering about who the next PM would be. ex-NMPs and NMPs were on a panel.

It was a waste of time. Unless you are a TV programmer, then of course it was your job to fill up the air time. And waste of time or not, it attracted eyeballs.

It was a gossipy, speculative, fluffy programme (from what I gathered reading about it), where the panel members engaged in atas kopitiam talk such as "...part of the difficulty (in identifying a successor) is that none of them have really left a deep enough impression,”

Which show that the panel members are completely divorced from the political reality of Singapore. The question of political succession is not answered by political drama - at least not in Singapore. If they expect the next PM to "stand-out" or "leave a deep impression" they have no idea how Singapore politics work.

Or are seriously deluded, pathologically scarred or perversely entertained by the political drama that passes for "government" elsewhere.

There have been two transitions of leadership in SG.

The simple fact is that if LKY wanted to hang onto power, he would have no trouble doing so in 1990. But he handed over power. Not to his choice, but the choice of his Cabinet. Did GCT stand out? Did he leave a deep impression prior to taking over from LKY? The problem of course is that LKY was incomparable. No one could measure up. Or make a greater impression.

Then GCT stepped down. Did LHL stand-out or make an impression? The problem was that he was always seen as the heir apparent. Just as insinuations that GCT was just a "seat warmer" will never die. The PM in SG is not directly elected to PMship by the voters. He is the choice of the cabinet members. E Pluribus Unum - "out of many, one". Or maybe Primus Inter Pares might be better. The cabinet ministers must be willing to take leadership from the PM. Thus they choose whom they will follow, or who they believe can lead them, or who they believe will promote the best interests of Singapore. (Or the PAP, if you prefer to be pretentiously/superficially cynical.)

[Aside: There are some comments or opinions that voters should select the PM directly. Then what next? Elect the Finance Minister? Foreign Affairs Minister? Health Minister? Defence Minister? And so on? That is silly. That is also a question one can only ask when one is totally ignorant of the Westminster Parliamentary System. In that system the party that wins the majority forms the government, the party then presents the person who has been nominated as PM to the President for the President to appoint? Confirm? Whatev.

If you need to see how that happens, when PH won Malaysia's GE2018, Mahathir was presented to the Sultan to be appointed or endorsed by the Sultan as PM. The Sultan actually asked Wan Azizah, leader of PKR and winner of the most number of seats, if she wanted to be PM. She deferred to Mahathir as agreed. Subsequently, the PM chooses his Cabinet members according to needs and abilities. Or if you have a coalition govt (like MY), then according to political obligations.]

In any case, if "people want a leader who is daring and transformative," there is always Donald Trump, or someone like him. Not "individuals with stellar academic qualifications, good career track records in government-linked corporations and bureaucracy, and a moderate personality."

The question is whether you want evolution or revolution. If on the whole SG is working relatively well (and the comments from the panel members suggest that: “Competency and reliability are about what you do and how you do it. And Singapore as a country is great at that."), then evolution is the way to go, and that requires stability, and continuity.

If on the other hand SG has been a mess of contradictions and the system as a whole is rotten to the core, and the people are suffering, then what you want is a REVOLUTION.

And you expect that from the PAP?

At the very least, you would need to vote the PAP out of government to get a "daring and transformative" leadership. And the PAP got 70% of the votes in 2015. So hard to see that happening in the next GE.

Voting for the PAP and expecting a "daring and transformative" revolution, is like expecting your prudent, rational wife who is a great mother and role model to your children to suddenly engage in BDSM, menage a trois, and casual sex with strangers. For money.

Not impossible, you say? Of course. Impossible is nothing.

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