To lodge all power in one party and keep it there is to ensure bad government. Do you agree?

Author: Stephanie Heng
School: Raffles Institution
Year Written: 2019
Grade: N.A.

Sun Yat-sen once noted that a ‘civilised nation cannot just have on party; if there were only one party, this would merely be a dictatorship’. Sun Yat-sen’s words raises an important concern relating to the distribution of political power in governance. A party possessing unchecked political power is a startling image for many, and it is therefore necessary to examine the repercussions of such a political act. While the idea of power as being lodged within a single party is tempting, this unlimited power may give rise to corruption, exploitation, and discrimination, leading to ‘bad government’ in that it encourages faulty decision-making processes and under-representation. Political power therefore should be distributed amongst several worthy parties.

Some argue that political power, lodged within one simple party, leads to increased efficacy where governments do not need to contend with needless opposition, especially in times of crisis. During the 2008 Financial Crisis, swift and decisive economic action on China’s part saved the country from further economic burden. The United States on the other hand had to contend with heated debate and long periods of inaction before the $700 billion bailout package was approved. This led to further economic losses that could have been prevented. The resilience package in Singapore was passed quickly due to the lack of debate and contention, allowing the government to tap onto past reserves to tide Singapore through and come of the crisis relatively unscathed. As such, efficacy can be achieved should power be consolidated at the hands of one party.

Concentrating power in the hands of one body also means that the government does not have to resort to populist measures to stay in government or gain entry into the government. During the Asian Financial Crisis, then Prime Minister Goh Chok Tong implemented CPF employer contributions from 20% to 10%, reduced burden on companies and firms. This was unpopular, but managed to tide Singapore through a tumultuous period, with Singapore coming out the best in the South East Asian regime. Another example includes the period when Thaksin promised rice subsidies and guaranteed government income in the form of the government buying rice above market prices in order to draw the uneducated rural vote, who only saw the promise of prosperity. This garnered him votes, but was ultimately unsustainable in the long run, as conceded by his sister, Yingluck. The diffusion of power across various parties run the risk of populist politics, which may have detrimental long-term effects on the country’s economy and society.

Nonetheless, humans are fallible creatures and lodging all power in a ruling party would be unwise given that there will be no alternative viewpoint to serve as a system of checks and balances. This can result in unwise decisions made by the government which has long-lasting and disastrous ramifications. Singapore’s disastrous birth control measures in the 1970s and eugenics policy during the 1980s, where the government was unopposed in the implementation of such policies, are a direct cause of the falling birth rate that Singapore is experiencing currently. This was caused by a short-sighted government and inability to see into the future, which led to decisions that was unopposed by any other substantial party. Another example includes China’s Great Leap Forward, which was a misguided and misinformed decision on the part of the government. This led to massive famines and unnecessary suffering for the people. As such, placing all power into the hands of one increases the risk of making serious mistakes, given that there is no alternative or opposing voice to contribute to a sustained and sensible discussion regarding policy implementation.

Moreover, there would be a lack of equal representation in politics, since a single party would only be representative of their own views. This runs the risk of leading to the oppression of minorities and the lack of representation of other interest groups. This is exemplified by theocracies such as Saudi Arabia, who often reject the rights of women shaped by their religious views. There are still no laws against domestic violence and abuse even in the most liberal of the Middle Eastern states. Additionally, Malaysia’s bumiputera policies that serve as essentially affirmative action for the majority, effectively neglects the needs of the only slightly smaller minority. Therefore, lodging all power in one party is to reduce necessary representation and diversity, leading to the oppression of minorities instead.

Finally, by permanently lodging power within one ruling body, in the long run, this results in a general elite-mass divide and disconnect between the government and the proletariat. This is disastrous because the governments are making ill-advised decisions to address the supposed needs of a people they do not even know. The consolidation of power within aristocracy in the Soviet Union led to massive suffering and hardship amongst the people, resulted in general unhappiness and dissatisfaction, and subsequently the Russian Revolution.

To conclude, while the idea of political power as being centralised within one political party is tempting due to its proposed efficacy and determent of populist measures, it is in fact a political system that teeters dangerously close to dictatorship, which may lead to unchecked socio-economic policy disasters and lack of representation within the government. As such, to lodge all power in a single party is to ensure bad government in terms of bad decision-making and political representation. 

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