Now, the pendulum is swinging again, to rest - the PAP hopes - in ahappy balance of politics and policies. The PAP would 'carry the ground'(politics), even as it pursues hard-headed governance (policies). If itsucceeds in achieving this balance, the PAP would have used its generalelection losses as the occasion to find a new equilibrium.
But will it? Two immediate challenges stand in the way of the desire of the'new PAP' to engage Singaporeans in policymaking, and connect emotionallywith them.The first is that its policies-only phase went on for so long that its ranks arenow filled with 'technocrats and civil servants', not politicians, as TampinesGRC MP Baey Yam Keng characterised the common charge.
While they are all certainly aware of the 'new normal', PAP politiciansstill believe in the primacy of policy effectiveness over politicalemotiveness.They believe in what makes sense, not what captures the news cycle.They believe that excessive debate is counter-productive, andopposition for opposition's sake is poisonous. And when it comes to thecrunch, they believe in 'doing the right thing' - implementing the optimal,long-term policy - even if they cannot carry the ground in the process.
The word 'politics' has even come to have negative connotations of panderingto populist pressure. How can the PAP become political if there is aninstinctive distrust of politics?The second obstacle is that the image fixed in Singaporeans' minds of thePAP is a party that is all head and no heart, one that puts policy above people.So, its attempts at establishing an emotional connection with the ground aremet with scepticism of varying degrees.The debate over the Bukit Brown cemetery is instructive. Despite theprotracted public engagement on the issue, some of those who do not want tosee the cemetery give way to development believe the public engagementwas just wayang (Malay for 'show'), that the 'new PAP' might spend more timeconsulting, but it will still not yield or soften its policies.