I’d like to drop a personal note of thanks here to Barbara F. Walter who mentioned me in this post at Political Violence @ a Glance. It was a summary of responses to an earlier post asking, “If presidential debates have little effect, why engage in them?”
Basically, what I wrote was, “Debates actually give a form and appearance of legitimacy to democratic governance.” This applies whether one is talking about the US or Singapore. Although the presidents of both countries are key members of the Executive branch of government, in the former s/he is both head of state and government, in the latter he is merely head of state and has very few substantial powers. A key similarity of course is that in both cases, both come from the ruling party or coalition (in Singapore that comes with bigger implications). The nature and effect(s) of presidential debates in both countries can be described, well, in the way I’ve done so.
And yet, key differences are that the US is at once both a mature neoliberal democracy and neo-imperialist power spanning a continent, one that may have two revolving mega-parties, but where it is increasingly riven by the polarisation of its elite political class and by money politics; Singapore is an advanced, state-led selective neoliberal economy, ruled by a single party since independence, with highly-paid Cabinet ministers, infused with another form of money(ed) politics, and bursting at the seams in population (with only about 60% being fully-fledged citizens born in the country) for a small island/city-state – or as some would say, microstate.
The video above comes from part of the debates during the run-up to the Singapore presidential election last year. The contestation about the Internal Security Act, or ISA makes greater sense when you link it to what Martyn wrote. In a nutshell:
1. The only political violence that has happened in the last 45 years in Singapore are the ones inflicted on political prisoners behind the walls of the Internal Security Department.