chapter  5
Pages 24

The long-ruling, single-party-dominant government of People’s Action Party (PAP) in Singapore has been denounced as illiberal, in a world where liberalism is dominant if not hegemonic (Bell et al. 1995). There is no doubt that the PAP government is illiberal, preferring to label itself as ‘pragmatic’ and ‘communitarian’. The ‘communitarian’ claim is embedded in its 1991 ideological manifesto, the Shared Values, in which the interest of the ‘nation’, rewritten as the ‘collective’, is to be held supreme above all other interests (Chua 1995: 31-35).1 This ideological preference is arguably an issue that can be settled between the government and the electorate who can, in principle vote out the government if it is against this illiberalness. However, this ability to replace the ruling government is largely absent in the present form of government, which in turns leads to questions on the PAP government’s claim to being democratic. Admittedly, since 1959, when the PAP won its first overwhelming majority of seats in a general election, an electoral system has been always in place. This has displaced substantial amount of criticism that might have been otherwise generated, domestically and internationally. It has also ‘enabled’ the PAP government to claim legitimacy to govern. However, there is no denying that the electoral process has been severely altered to the incumbent government’s advantage. Nor is there any denying that, using its absolute majority in parliament to pass legislation with ease, there are some anti-democratic legislations and administrative practices in place. Consequently, it is the democratic claims of the PAP regime that political criticism holds more conceptual and substantive consequences.