- Political scandals are rare in Singapore. The city-state has long promoted its clean government and incorruptible image to cement its position as a leading financial center in Asia to attract foreign investors.
- But the southeastern country is now caught up in a series of high-profile incidents, which have bedeviled its political elite.
- Eugene Tan, associate professor of law at Singapore Management University, told CNBC that this is the “most serious crisis” facing Singapore as “events have triggered and could further erode the public’s trust and confidence” in the government.
SINGAPORE – SEPTEMBER 11: The Prime Minister and Secretary General of the People’s Action Party (PAP), Lee Hsien Loong (L) and Dr. Koh Poh Kon (R) celebrate after winning their seat in the Ang Mo Kio (GRC) Group Representation Constituency on September 11, 2015 in Singapore.
Al-Suhaimi Abdullah | Getty Images News | Getty Images
SINGAPORE – Political scandals are rare in Singapore. The city-state has long promoted its clean government and incorruptible image to cement its position as a leading financial center in Asia to attract foreign investors.
But the Southeast Asian country is now caught up in a series of high-profile incidents that have bedeviled its political elite.
Eugene Tan, associate professor of law at Singapore Management University, told CNBC that this is the “most serious crisis” facing Singapore as recent events “have and could further erode public trust and confidence” in the government.
“The ruling party now appears weak as it has not happened in recent memory,” he added. “Now she has a mountain to climb. How he recovers is going to be very important.”
These are severe blows to the reputation of the PAP government, which has long prided itself on ruling with honesty, integrity and integrity.
Associate Professor of Law, Singapore Management University
In the final blow, the political crisis deepened after the sudden resignations of two MPs, including the Speaker of Parliament.R having an affair this week. Both are members of the ruling People’s Action Party, which has ruled Singapore since 1959.
This disclosure came just days after the authorities said that Cabinet Minister S. Eswaran and a businessman in Singapore are embroiled in a high-profile corruption investigation conducted by the anti-graft agency.
SMU’sTan said: “These are severe blows to the reputation of the PAP government which has long prided itself on ruling with honesty, integrity and probity. In turn, Singapore’s reputation and prestige have also suffered.”
Tan Ern Ser, associate professor of sociology at the National University of Singapore, noted that the chain of events “coming in quick succession affects the image of the ruling party.”
This is especially true, given that “extreme hygiene is one of the cornerstones of the PAP brand,” he added.
On Monday, Singapore Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong said he had decided to choose the current speaker of the Singapore Parliament Tan Chuan Jin “should have gone.”
The decision came after he received information that Tan and another PAP lawmaker Cheng Lihui continued their “inappropriate relationship” even after the prime minister advised them to end their relationship in February.
In Singapore, politicians are treated to much higher standards because the ruling party’s “whole foundation of political legitimacy” has been built on “clean and uncorrupt governance,” SMU’s Tan told CNBC’s “Squawk Box Asia.”
He added that what the government is doing now is crucial.
“It should go beyond damage control to refurbish or even cleanse the system of deficiencies, blind spots, and weaknesses,” Tan said. “This is the surest way to avoid the fading of trust and confidence.”
The Prime Minister’s Office did not respond to CNBC’s request for comment.
Last week, it was Singapore’s Transport Minister S Eswaran and prominent businessman Ong Bing Seng Arrested before being released on bail, in the most serious corruption investigation the country has seen in nearly four decades.
Both men now Assistance in the investigationThe Bureau of Investigation revealed corrupt practices in Singapore.
Singaporean government officials It is among the highest paid in the world, as the country seeks to discourage corruption and attract the best talent. Ministers earn about 1.1 million Singapore dollars ($822,000) annually, according to the ministry Public Service Division website.
Felix Tan, an assistant lecturer at Nanyang Technological University in Singapore, said the unfolding political “drama” comes as a “real surprise, perhaps a shock” to Singaporeans.
High standards of personal decorum and behaviour, along with remaining clean and unspoiled, are the primary reasons Singaporeans trust and respect PAP.
Lee Hsien Loong
Singapore Prime Minister
Singaporeans, not used to political scandals, have turned to memes to express themselves. Discussions and social media comments in local media also looked at the implications for the country.
NTU’s Tan said that while the latest wave of incidents does not “portray a system failure,” it certainly serves as a “test for the government” to re-examine its high standards.
When similar scandals happen to the opposition, the lecturer said, “the People’s Action Party will take the moral high ground and insist that the opposition do the right thing.”
“However, what these cases have shown is that the PAP is doing exactly the same things they have urged others not to do,” he said, adding that the government should be “more transparent” in its dealings with the people.
The corruption scandal followed public scrutiny of two other ministers who rented state-owned cottages for their personal use. Questions have been raised about whether they are paying below market prices for properties.
in June, government review No evidence of corruption or criminal wrongdoing was found in this matter.
“I think a lot depends on how the government handles these fallout,” said NUS’s Tan. “I believe that the state’s institutions are still strong and barriers will be strengthened in the process of responding to these challenges,” he added.
Singapore Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong (left) shakes hands with a People’s Action Party supporter during a campaign rally in May.
Simin Wang | AFP | Getty Images
The prime minister sought to quickly control the damage, emphasizing the government’s intolerance of corruption to assuage public fears.
“High standards of decency and personal conduct, along with remaining clean and uncorrupt, are the fundamental reasons why Singaporeans trust and respect the People’s Action Party, and give us their mandate to form government,” He told me on Monday.
but As he admitted“No system can be completely infallible.”
Lee added, “Sometimes things pile up, but we make sure to get it right, and I hope I put it right and we’ll be able to set the right tone for a long time to come.”
The political fallout comes at a critical time for Singapore, which is going through a difficult leadership transition. The prime minister seeks to hand over power to the next generation of leaders in the near future.
“The longer the delay, the more it will raise a lot of concerns about whether next-generation leaders are ready,” said SMU’s Tan.
In testimony this week, Lee said he had no plans to call immediate elections, despite the vacancies in parliament. Singapore will hold its presidential elections in the next few months, and general elections are not scheduled until 2025.
“We are in the second half of the term of the current government, we have opened the parliament recently,” he said. “We have a full agenda for this season, we’re working on it and that’s what we’re going to focus on.”
If the election were held now, the UPA’s Tan said, “the negative impact on the PAP’s electoral performance would be significant.”
He added that with the government facing pressure from “ever-rising inflation”, including growing concerns about the affordability of homes, the ruling party needed to close ranks and “stay on track” in order to deliver a “reliable performance”.
While it is difficult to gauge whether the scandals will damage the ruling party and allow the opposition to have its way, “there will definitely be a heavy political price to pay,” noted SMU’s Tan.
“How much is the political cost? We don’t know at this point,” he added.
“At a minimum, it can cause an element of suspicion. So voters can be more willing to consider what other parties have to offer.”
He added that restoring people’s trust will be difficult for the government. “Rebuilding trust is difficult. It will also take time but there is not much time for the next general election.”
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