Kuan Yew warns of two-party system pitfalls

By Shannon Teoh, The Malaysia Insider

KUALA LUMPUR, July 27 — Singapore’s influential founding father Lee Kuan Yew has spoken out against a two-party system, warning that it could cause weak governments even as opposition parties make gains and democracy flourishes across Southeast Asia.


The former prime minister of the island republic said in a recent interview with China Central Television (CCTV) that the progress made by Singapore since it was established in 1965 should not be taken for granted or that “what has been achieved is always secure”, adding that poor governance would cause it to “spiral downwards.”

“I believe once you have weak, ineffective government, the whole progress you have made will spiral downwards. But the majority of people believe it is secure for them, so now they have ideas about the West, two-party system,” Lee said.

Singapore’s general election in May saw its opposition make record gains, claiming six of 87 seats as the ruling People’s Action Party saw its popular support drop by nearly seven percentage points to 60 per cent.

Developments across the region, especially Lee’s former countrymen in Malaysia denying Barisan Nasional (BN) its customary two-thirds of Parliament in 2008, are said to have stirred up a political awakening on the island.

Years of mass popular protests have also toppled a military-backed regime in Thailand while Indonesia has blossomed into a global giant after democratic reforms in the late 1990s.

In the interview, Lee noted that Singaporeans now desire a “First World Parliament,” which was the slogan of the opposition Workers’ Party that took six seats at the May 7 polls.

“Their argument is simple. A First World country must have a First World Parliament. A First World Parliament must have a First World opposition. Then you can change dice. I think if ever we go down that road, I’ll be very sorry for Singapore,’ he said.