People's Action Party

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This article is about the People's Action Party of Singapore. For other groups with the same name, see People's Action Party (disambiguation).
People's Action Party
Chairman Khaw Boon Wan
Secretary-General Lee Hsien Loong
Founded 1954 (1954)
Headquarters PCF Building
57B New Upper Changi Road
#01-1402
Singapore 463057
Youth wing Young PAP
Membership 15,000(2000)[1]
Ideology Pragmatism
Meritocracy
Multiracialism[2]
Political position Centre-right
International affiliation None
Colours White, Blue, Red
Parliament
80 / 99
Website
pap.org.sg
Politics of Singapore
Political parties
Elections

The People's Action Party (abbrev: PAP) has been Singapore's ruling political party since 1959. It is one of the two major parties in Singapore, the other being the Workers' Party.

Since the 1963 general elections, the PAP has dominated Singapore's parliamentary democracy and has been central to the city-state's rapid political, social, and economic development.[3] However, it has been criticised[by whom?] for the passing of laws that suppress free speech and other civil liberties.[4][5]

In the 2011 Singapore general election, the PAP won 81 of the 87 constituency elected (99 total) seats in the Parliament of Singapore while receiving 60.14% of total votes cast, the lowest share garnered since independence.

Political development[edit]

A PAP Merdeka rally at Farrer Park on 17 August 1955.
People's Action Party supporters during the Singapore General Election, 2011

The PAP was formed in 1954 by predominantly English-educated middle-class professional men who had returned from their university education in the United Kingdom.[citation needed]

In 1954, Lim Chin Siong, along with his Chinese High senior,[clarification needed] Fong Swee Suan, was introduced to Lee Kuan Yew. Despite their ideological differences, the three men shared a common goal: full independence for Singapore. Together with Lee and others, Lim and Fong became founding members of the PAP on 21 November 1954.

In April 1955, Lim Chin Siong was elected as Assemblyman for the Bukit Timah constituency. Then 22 years old, he was and remained the youngest Assemblyman ever to be elected to office. The following year, Lim and Lee represented the PAP at the London Constitutional Talks, which ended in failure:­ the British declined to grant Singapore internal self-government. On 7 June 1956, David Marshall, disappointed with the constitutional talks, stepped down as Chief Minister, and was replaced by Lim Yew Hock.[6]

Lee Kuan Yew eventually accused Lim Chin Siong and his supporters of being Communists, though declassified British government documents later suggested that no evidence was ever found that Lim was a Communist.[7] Lee Kuan Yew imprisoned Lim Chin Siong without trial for many years, preventing him from competing against Lee as leader of the banned break-away opposition party the Barisan Sosialis (Socialist Front).

The PAP first contested the 1955 elections, in which 25 of 32 seats in the legislature were up for election. The party won three seats, one by its leader Lee Kuan Yew, and one by co-founder of the PAP, Lim Chin Siong, the election going to the Labour Front's David Saul Marshall.

David Marshall was vocally anti-British and anti-colonialist, and the British found it difficult to come to an agreement or a compromise. Eventually, after failing to reach any agreement about a definite plan for self-government, he resigned in 1956, following a pledge that he would achieve self-government or resign. Lim Yew Hock, another Labour Front member, took his place. He pursued a largely anti-communist campaign and managed to convince the British to make a definite plan for self-government. The Constitution of Singapore was revised accordingly in 1958, replacing the Rendel Constitution with one that granted Singapore self-government and the ability for its own population to fully elect its Legislative Assembly.

However, Lim's tactics against the communists alienated a large part of the Singaporean Chinese electorate, the demographic targeted most during the anti-communist campaign. There were also allegations of civil rights violations, as many activists were detained without trial and with the justification of internal security and tear gas was used against demonstrating students from several Chinese schools, both anti-colonialist and anti-communist alike.[citation needed]

Following this initial defeat, the PAP decided to re-assert ties with the labour faction of Singapore by promising to release the jailed members of the PAP and at the same time getting them to sign a document that they supported Lee Kuan Yew and the PAP, in the hope that it could attract the votes of working-class Chinese Singaporeans. According to Tan Jing Quee in the book "Comet in our Sky", Lee Kuan Yew was being deceptive at this time: while pretending to be on the side of the jailed labour members of the PAP, he was secretly in collusion with the British to stop Lim Chin Siong and the labour supporters from attaining power, whom Lee had courted because of their huge popularity, without which Lee would most likely not have been able to attain power. Quee also states that Lim Yew Hock deliberately provoked the students into rioting and then had the labour leaders arrested. "Lee Kuan Yew was secretly a party with Lim Yew Hock" – adds Dr Greg Poulgrain of Griffiths University "in urging the Colonial Secretary to impose the subversives ban in making it illegal for former political detainees to stand for election."[7]

The result was successful for the PAP under Lee Kuan Yew's control who won the 1959 election, and has held power ever since. The 1959 election was also the first election to produce a fully elected parliament and a cabinet wielding powers of full internal self-government. The party has won a majority of seats in every general election since then.

After gaining independence from Britain, Singapore joined the federation of Malaysia in late 1963, but was subsequently told to leave in 1965. Although the PAP was the ruling party in the state of Singapore, the PAP functioned as an opposition party at the federal level in the larger Malaysian political landscape. At that time (and ever since), the federal government in Kuala Lumpur was controlled by a coalition led by the United Malays National Organization (UMNO). However, the prospect that the PAP might rule Malaysia agitated UMNO. The PAP's decision to contest federal parliamentary seats outside Singapore, and the UMNO decision to contest seats within Singapore, breached an unspoken agreement to respect each other's spheres of influence, and aggravated PAP-UMNO relations. The clash of personalities between PAP leader Lee Kuan Yew and Malaysian Prime Minister Tunku Abdul Rahman resulted in a crisis and led to the latter expelling Singapore from the Federation of Malaysia in August 1965. Upon independence, the PAP ceased operations outside Singapore, abandoning the nascent opposition movement it had started in Malaysia. Nevertheless, the Chinese-dominated opposition Democratic Action Party (DAP) in Malaysia is historically linked to the PAP, while in Singapore, the Malay-dominated opposition Singapore Malay National Organization (PKMS) is historically linked to UMNO.[citation needed]

The PAP has held an overwhelming majority of seats in the Parliament of Singapore since 1966, when the opposition Barisan Sosialis (Socialist Front), a left-wing group that split from PAP in 1961, resigned from Parliament after winning 13 seats following the 1963 state elections, which took place months after a number of their leaders had been arrested in Operation Coldstore based on charges of being communists.[7] This left the PAP as the only major political party. In the general elections of 1968, 1972, 1976, and 1980, the PAP won all of the seats in an expanding parliament. Opposition parties have not held more than four parliamentary seats since 1984, until 2011 when the Worker's Party won 6 seats and won a GRC for the first time for any opposition party.

Organisation[edit]

People's Action Party Headquarters in New Upper Changi Road, Singapore
A People's Action Party branch in Bukit Timah, Singapore

Initially adopting a traditionalist Leninist party organisation, together with a vanguard cadre from its labour-leaning faction in 1958, the PAP Executive later expelled the leftist faction, bringing the ideological basis of the party into the centre, and later in the 1960s, moving further to the right. In the beginning, there were about 500 so-called "temporary cadre" appointed[8] but the current number of cadres is unknown and the register of cadres is kept confidential. In 1988, Wong Kan Seng revealed that there were more than 1,000 cadres. Cadre members have the right to attend party conferences and to vote for and elect and to be elected to the Central Executive Committee (CEC), the pinnacle of party leaders. To become a cadre, a party member is first nominated by the MP in his or her branch. The candidate then undergoes three sessions of interviews, each with four or five ministers or MPs, and the appointment is then made by the CEC. About 100 candidates are nominated each year.[9]

Central Executive Committee and Secretary General[edit]

Political power in the party is concentrated in the Central Executive Committee (CEC), led by the Secretary-General. The Secretary-General of the People's Action Party is the leader of the party. Because of the PAP electoral victories in every General Election since 1959, the Prime Minister of Singapore has been by convention the Secretary-General of the PAP since 1959. Most CEC members are also cabinet members. From 1957 onwards, the rules laid down that the outgoing CEC should recommend a list of candidates from which the cadre members can then vote for the next CEC. This has been changed recently so that the CEC nominates eight members and the party caucus selects the remaining ten.

Historically, the position of Secretary-General was not considered for the post of Prime Minister. Instead, the Central Executive Committee held an election to choose the Prime Minister. There was a contest between PAP Secretary-General Lee Kuan Yew and PAP treasurer Ong Eng Guan. Lee Kuan Yew won, and thus became the first Prime Minister of Singapore. [10]

Since that election, there is a tradition that Singapore's Prime Minister is the Secretary-General of the winning party with the majority of the seats.

List of Secretary-Generals[edit]

No Name Born Took Office Left Office
1 Lee Kuan Yew 1923 1954 1992
2 Goh Chok Tong 1941 1992 2004
3 Lee Hsien Loong 1952 2004 Incumbent

HQ Executive Committee[edit]

The next lower level committee is the HQ Executive Committee (HQ Ex-Co) which performs the party's administration and oversees twelve sub-committees.[11] The sub-committees are:

  1. Branch Appointments and Relations
  2. Constituency Relations
  3. Information and Feedback
  4. New Media
  5. Malay Affairs
  6. Membership Recruitment and Cadre Selection
  7. PAP Awards
  8. Political Education
  9. Publicity and Publication
  10. Social and Recreational
  11. Women's Wing
  12. Young PAP

Ideology[edit]

Since the early years of the PAP's rule, the idea of survival has been a central theme of Singaporean politics. According to Diane Mauzy and R.S. Milne, most analysts of Singapore have discerned four major "ideologies" of the PAP: pragmatism, meritocracy, multiracialism, and Asian values or communitarianism.[12] In January 1991 the PAP introduced the White Paper on Shared Values, which tried to create a national ideology and institutionalise Asian values. The party also says it has 'rejected' what it considers Western-style liberal democracy. Some contest this,[who?] pointing to the presence of many aspects of liberal democracy in Singapore's public policy, specifically the welfare state and recognition of democratic institutions. Professor Hussin Mutalib, however, opines that for Lee Kuan Yew "Singapore would be better off without liberal democracy".[13]

The party economic ideology has always accepted the need for some welfare spending, pragmatic economic interventionism and general Keynesian economic policy. However, free-market policies have been popular since the 1980s as part of the wider implementation of a meritocracy in civil society, and Singapore frequently ranks extremely highly on indices of "economic freedom" published by economically liberal organisations such as the World Bank and the International Monetary Fund.

Lee Kuan Yew has also said in 1992: "Through Hong Kong watching, I concluded that state welfare and subsidies blunted the individual's drive to succeed. I watched with amazement the ease with which Hong Kong workers adjusted their salaries upwards in boom times and downwards in recessions. I resolved to reverse course on the welfare policies which my party had inherited or copied from British Labour Party policies."[14]

The party is deeply suspicious of communist political ideologies, despite a brief joint alliance (with the pro-labour co-founders of the PAP who were falsely accused of being communists) against colonialism in Singapore during the party's early years. It has since considered itself a social democratic party, though in recent decades it has moved towards neoliberal and free-market economy reforms.[citation needed]

The socialism practised by the PAP during its first few decades in power was of a pragmatic kind, as characterised by the party's rejection of nationalisation. According to Chan Heng Chee, by the late Seventies, the intellectual credo of the government rested explicitly upon a philosophy of self-reliance, similar to the "rugged individualism" of the American brand of capitalism. Despite this, the PAP still claimed to be a socialist party, pointing out its regulation of the private sector, activist intervention in the economy, and social policies as evidence of this.[15] In 1976, however, the PAP resigned from the Socialist International after the Dutch Labour Party had proposed to expel the party,[16] accusing it of suppressing freedom of speech.

The PAP symbol (which is red and blue on white) stands for action inside "interracial unity." Furthermore, PAP members at party rallies have sometimes worn a "uniform" of white shirts and white trousers. The "white-on-white" symbolises the party's ideals of clean governance, it reminds party members that the white uniform, once sullied, is difficult to make clean again.

Leadership[edit]

For many years, the party was led by former PAP secretary-general Lee Kuan Yew, who was Prime Minister of Singapore from 1959 to 1990. Lee handed over the positions of secretary-general and prime minister to Goh Chok Tong in 1991. The current secretary general of the PAP and Prime Minister of Singapore is Lee Hsien Loong, son of Lee Kuan Yew, who succeeded Goh Chok Tong on 12 August 2004.

The chairperson of the PAP is Khaw Boon Wan.[17]

PAP's general election results[edit]

Legislative Assembly[edit]

Election Seats up for election Seats contested by party Seats won by walkover Contested seats won Contested seats lost Total seats won Change Total votes Share of votes Outcome of election
1955 25 4 0 3 1
3 / 32
Increase3 13,634 8.7% PAP in opposition. Labour Front forms government.
1959 51 51 0 43 8
43 / 51
Increase40 281,891 54.1% PAP majority
1963 51 51 0 37 14
37 / 51
Decrease6 272,924 46.9% PAP majority

Parliament[edit]

Election Seats up for election Seats contested by party Seats won by walkover Contested seats won Contested seats lost Total seats won Change Total votes Share of votes Outcome of election
1968 58 58 51 7 0
58 / 58
Increase21 65,812 86.7% PAP wins all seats
1972 65 65 8 57 0
65 / 65
Increase7 524,892 70.4% PAP wins all seats
1976 69 69 16 53 0
69 / 69
Increase4 590,169 74.1% PAP wins all seats
1980 75 75 37 38 0
75 / 75
Increase6 494,268 77.7% PAP wins all seats
1984 79 79 30 47 2
77 / 79
Increase2 568,310 64.8% PAP majority
1988 81 81 11 69 1
80 / 81
Increase3 848,029 63.2% PAP majority
1991 81 81 41 36 4
77 / 81
Decrease3 477,760 61% PAP majority
1997 83 83 47 34 2
81 / 83
Increase4 465,751 65% PAP majority
2001 84 84 55 27 2
82 / 84
Increase1 470,765 75.3% PAP majority
2006 84 84 37 45 2
82 / 84
Steady 748,130 66.6% PAP majority
2011 87 87 5 76 6
81 / 87
Decrease1 1,212,514 60.1% PAP majority

Activities[edit]

Internet[edit]

In February 2007 it was reported by The Straits Times that the PAP's "new media" committee, chaired by Dr Ng Eng Hen, had initiated an effort to counter critics on the internet "as it was necessary for the PAP to have a voice on cyberspace".[18]

In June 2014, PAP MP Baey Yam Keng called for legal action against those who had vandalised its Wikipedia page, which had been the subject of an edit war between vandals and editors of Wikipedia on 12 and 13 June,[19] though he later claimed that "(advocating for legal action was) never on top of my mind, nor is it PAP's (People's Action Party) priority".[20] This came weeks after a lawsuit filed against blogger Roy Ngerng by the Singapore Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong over his blog post on the use of CPF Funds.[21]

Presidential Elections[edit]

The PAP did not formally endorse any candidate in the 2011 presidential election. 2 of the 4 candidates were former party members.[22]

See also[edit]

References[edit]

Notes
  1. ^ Straits Times Weekly Edition, 30 December 2000.
  2. ^ Diane K. Mauzy and R.S. Milne (2002). Singapore Politics Under the People's Action Party. Routledge. p. 52. ISBN 0-415-24653-9. 
  3. ^ "A History of Singapore: Lion City, Asian Tiger". Discovery Channel. 2005.
  4. ^ Muigai, Githu. "You can cage the singer". United Nations. journalism.sg. Retrieved 13 August 2011. 
  5. ^ "You can cage the singer". The Economist (London). 4 November 2010. Retrieved 13 August 2011. 
  6. ^ Wong Hongyi (2009). "Lim Chin Siong". Singapore Infopedia. National Library Board Singapore. 
  7. ^ a b c Tan Jing Quee (2001). Comet in our sky: Lim Chin Siong in history. Insan. ISBN 983-9602-14-4. 
  8. ^ Diane K. Mauzy and R.S. Milne (2002). Singapore Politics Under the People's Action Party. Routledge. p. 41. ISBN 0-415-24653-9. 
  9. ^ Koh Buck Song (4 April 1998). "The PAP cadre system". The Straits Times (Singapore). 
  10. ^ "Lee Kuan Yew elected as Prime Minister of Singapore". AsiaOne. 10 September 2009. Retrieved 16 December 2012. 
  11. ^ "About the Leadership HQ Executive Committee". People's Action Party. Archived from the original on 6 May 2006. Retrieved 10 May 2006. 
  12. ^ Christopher Tremewan (1996). The Political Economy of Social Control in Singapore (St. Anthony's Series). Palgrave Macmillan. p. 105. ISBN 978-0-312-15865-1. 
  13. ^ Hussin Mutalib (2004). Parties and Politics. A Study of Opposition Parties and the PAP in Singapore. Marshall Cavendish Adademic. p. 20. ISBN 981-210-408-9. 
  14. ^ Roger Kerr (9 December 1999). "Optimism for the New Millennium.". Rotary Club of Wellington North. Archived from the original on 7 March 2006. Retrieved 10 May 2006. 
  15. ^ Driven by Growth: Political Change in the Asia-Pacific Region edited by James W. Morley
  16. ^ "PAP bows out of Socialist International". Workers' Party of Singapore. June 1976. Retrieved 4 October 2009. [dead link]
  17. ^ Li Xueying (1 June 2011). "PAP appoints Khaw Boon Wan as Party Chairman". The Straits Times (Singapore). 
  18. ^ Li Xueying (3 February 2007). "PAP moves to counter criticism of party, Govt in cyberspace". The Straits Times (Singapore). 
  19. ^ "MP calls on ruling party to consider legal action". The Straits Times (Singapore). 13 June 2014. 
  20. ^ "Advocating legal action over PAP's Wiki page edits not a priority: Baey". Channel News Asia. Retrieved 13 June 2014. 
  21. ^ Nur Asyiqin Mohamad Salleh (29 May 2014). "PM Lee commences suit against blogger Roy Ngerng". The Straits Times (Singapore). 
  22. ^ http://www.singapore-elections.com/pres-elec/2011.html
Bibliography
  • Goh, Cheng Teik (1994). Malaysia: Beyond Communal Politics. Pelanduk Publications. ISBN 967-978-475-4.
Online

External links[edit]