People's Action Party
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The People's Action Party (abbrev: PAP) is a right-wing political party in Singapore. Having been the country's ruling party since 1959, it is Singapore's longest (and only ever) ruling party. This continuous rule has led the country to be described as a "de facto one party-state" and "undemocratic."
|Chairman||Khaw Boon Wan|
|Secretary-General||Lee Hsien Loong|
|Assistant Secretary-General||Teo Chee Hean
|Founder||Lee Kuan Yew|
|Founded||21 November 1954|
57B New Upper Changi Road
|Youth wing||Young PAP|
|Women's wing||Women's Wing (PAP)|
|Policy forum||PAP Policy Forum|
|Senior wing||PAP Seniors Group|
|Colours||White, Blue, Red|
82 / 101
Since the 1959 general elections, the PAP has dominated Singapore's politics and has been credited as being central to the city-state's rapid political, social, and economic development. In the 2015 Singapore general election, the PAP won 83 of the 89 constituency elected seats in the Parliament of Singapore, representing 69.86% of total votes cast.
Lee Kuan Yew, Toh Chin Chye and Goh Keng Swee were involved the Malayan Forum, a London-based student activist group that was against colonial rule in Malaya in the 1940s and early 1950s. Upon returning to Singapore, the group met regularly to discuss approaches to attain independence in Malayan territories, and started looking for like-minded individuals to start a political party. Journalist S. Rajaratnam was introduced to Lee by Goh. Lee was also introduced to several English-educated left-wing students and Chinese-educated union and student leaders while working on the Fajar sedition trial and the National Service riot case.
The PAP was officially registered as a political party on 21 November 1954. Convenors of the party include a group of trade unionists, lawyers and journalists such as Lee Kuan Yew, Abdul Samad Ismail, Toh Chin Chye, Goh Keng Swee, Devan Nair, S. Rajaratnam, Chan Chiaw Thor, Fong Swee Suan, Tann Wee Keng and Tann Wee Tiong. The political party was led by Lee Kuan Yew as its secretary-general, with Toh Chin Chye as its founding chairman. Other party officers include Tann Wee Tiong, Lee Gek Seng, Ong Eng Guan and Tann Wee Keng.
The PAP first contested the 1955 elections, in which 25 of 32 seats in the legislature were up for election. In this election, the PAP's four candidates gained much support from the trade union members and student groups such as the University Socialist Club, who canvassed for them. The party won three seats, one by its leader Lee Kuan Yew for the Tanjong Pagar division, and one by co-founder of the PAP, Lim Chin Siong, for the Bukit Timah division. Then 22 years old, unionist Lim Chin Siong was and remained the youngest Assemblyman ever to be elected to office. The election was won by Labour Front, headed by David Marshall.
In April 1956, Lim and Lee represented the PAP at the London Constitutional Talks along with Chief Minister Marshall, 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, as he had pledged to do so earlier if self-governance was not achieved. He was replaced by another Labour Front member Lim Yew Hock. Lim 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.
PAP, and left-wing members who were labelled by some as communists, were criticised for inciting riots in the mid-1950s. Lim Chin Siong, Fong Swee Suan and Devan Nair, as well as several unionists, were detained by the police after the Chinese middle schools riots.
Following this, the PAP decided to re-assert ties with the labour faction of Singapore in the hope of securing the votes of working-class Chinese Singaporeans, many of whom were supporters of the jailed unionists. Lee Kuan Yew convinced the incarcerated union leaders to sign documents to state their support for the party and its policies, promising to release the jailed members of the PAP when the party came to power in the next elections. Ex-Barisan Sosialis member Tan Jing Quee claims that Lee was secretly in collusion with the British to stop Lim Chin Siong and the labour supporters from attaining power because of their huge popularity. 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." Lee Kuan Yew eventually accused Lim Chin Siong and his supporters of being communists working for the Communist United Front, but evidence of Lim being a communist cadre was a matter of debate as many documents have yet to be declassified.
The PAP eventually won the 1959 election under Lee Kuan Yew's leadership. 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. Lee, who became the first prime minister, requested for the release of the PAP left-wing members to form the new cabinet.
In 1961, disagreements on the proposed merger plan with Malaysia and long-standing internal party power struggle led to the split of the left-wing group from the PAP. The breakaway group of members formed the Barisan Sosialis with Lim Chin Siong as Secretary-General. Aside from the Chinese union leaders, lawyers Thampoe Thamby Rajah and Tann Wee Tiong, as well as several members from the University Socialist Club such as James Puthucheary and Poh Soo Kai joined the party.
After gaining independence from Britain, Singapore joined the federation of Malaysia in 1963. 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 Organisation (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 Rahman forcing Singapore to leave Malaysia on 9 August 1965. Upon independence, the nascent People's Action Party of Malaya, which had been registered in Malaysia on 10 March 1964, had its registration cancelled on 9 September 1965, exactly a month after Singapore's exit. Those with the now non-existent party applied to register "People's Action Party, Malaya", which was again rejected by the Malaysian government, before settling with the Democratic Action Party.
The PAP has held an overwhelming majority of seats in the Parliament of Singapore since 1966, when the opposition Barisan Sosialis (Socialist Front) 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. In the general elections of 1968, 1972, 1976, and 1980, the PAP won all of the seats in an expanding parliament. Although opposition parties managed to get back into Parliament in 1984, the PAP still rules Singapore as a virtual one-party state. Opposition parties did not win more than four parliamentary seats from 1984 until 2011 when the Workers' Party won six seats and took away a Group Representation Constituency (GRC) for the first time for any opposition party.
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 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.
Central Executive Committee and Secretary GeneralEdit
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.
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.
HQ Executive CommitteeEdit
The next lower level committee is the HQ Executive Committee (HQ Ex-Co) which performs the party's administration and oversees 12 sub-committees. The sub-committees are:
- Branch Appointments and Relations
- Constituency Relations
- Information and Feedback
- New Media
- Malay Affairs
- Membership Recruitment and Cadre Selection
- PAP Awards
- Political Education
- Publicity and Publication
- Social and Recreational
- Women's Wing
- Young PAP
An additional two more were later added, totalling 14.
13. PAP Seniors Group (PAP.SG)
14. PAP Policy Forum (PPF)
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. 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, despite the presence of many aspects of liberal democracy in Singapore's public policy such as the recognition of democratic institutions. Professor Hussin Mutalib, however, opines that for Lee Kuan Yew "Singapore would be better off without liberal democracy".
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 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."
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 accused of being communists) against colonialism in Singapore during the party's early years. In 2015, the party was seen by some observers to have adopted a left-of-centre tack in certain areas, in order to remain electorally dominant.
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. In 1976, however, the PAP resigned from the Socialist International after the Dutch Labour Party had proposed to expel the party, 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.
Marking a possible shift in ideology, at an Institute of Policy Studies dialogue held on 2 July 2015, Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong spoke about the need to maintain a certain natural aristocracy in the system, to instill a culture of respect and to avoid anarchy.
According to Kenneth Paul Tan, with an overwhelming majority in parliament, the PAP government has been able to amend the Constitution without much obstruction, introducing multi-member constituencies, unelected parliamentary membership, and other institutional changes that have, in effect, strengthened the government's dominance and control of Parliament. It has also propagated the idea that pragmatism and economic considerations triumph over accountability, transparency and checks and balances. By drawing from a specious notion of Confucian values and Asian culture to construct ideological bulwarks - like "Asian democracy", the PAP government has been able to justify its (liberal) democracy deficit and its authoritarian means.
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 first chairman of the PAP was Dr Toh Chin Chye.
List of ChairmanEdit
|1||Toh Chin Chye||1954—1981|
|2||Ong Teng Cheong||1981—1993|
|3||Tan Keng Yam||1993—2004|
|4||Lim Boon Heng||2004—2011|
|5||Khaw Boon Wan||2011—|
List of Secretaries-GeneralEdit
|1||Lee Kuan Yew||1954—1992|
|2||Goh Chok Tong||1992—2004|
|3||Lee Hsien Loong||2004—|
PAP's general election resultsEdit
|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|
3 / 25
|3||13,634||8.7%||PAP in opposition. Labour Front forms government.|
43 / 51
37 / 51
|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|
58 / 58
|21||65,812||86.7%||PAP wins all seats|
65 / 65
|7||524,892||70.4%||PAP wins all seats|
69 / 69
|4||590,169||74.1%||PAP wins all seats|
75 / 75
|6||494,268||77.7%||PAP wins all seats|
77 / 79
80 / 81
77 / 81
81 / 83
82 / 84
82 / 84
81 / 87
83 / 89
Since 1995, the youth wing of the PAP has had an internet presence "posting corrections to "misinformation" about Singaporean politics or culture." In February 2007 it was reported by The Straits Times that the PAP's "new media" committee, chaired by minister Ng Eng Hen, had initiated an effort to counter critics anonymously on the Internet "as it was necessary for the PAP to have a voice on cyberspace". The initiative was divided by two sub-committees, one of which was in charge of strategising the campaigns and is co-headed by minister Lui Tuck Yew and MP Zaqy Mohamad. The other sub-committee 'new media capabilities group', led by MPs Baey Yam Keng and Josephine Teo, executed the strategies. The initiative was set up after the 2006 general elections and also included around 20 IT-savvy PAP activists.
- Politics of Singapore
- The Workers' Party (Singapore)
- Dominant party system#Singapore
- Young PAP
- PAP Community Foundation
- List of political parties in Singapore
- Human rights in Singapore
- State-sponsored Internet propaganda
- Diane K. Mauzy and R.S. Milne (2002). Singapore Politics Under the People's Action Party. Routledge. p. 147. ISBN 0-415-24653-9.
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The Round Table Vol. 105 , Iss. 2,2016
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