The Trump Administration is hitting the ground running. With 19 Executive Orders in just 2 weeks, President Trump’s agenda is already unfolding before our eyes. To date, Trump has implemented a blanket immigration ban against 7 Muslim majority countries, outlined a disastrous 20% tariff plan to fund the Border Wall, authorized the Dakota Access Pipeline, threatened war with Iran and indicated his intention to end the separation of church and state. But for all negative reports we’ve heard over the past 2 weeks, the one silver lining is that President Trump is being opposed, obstructed and checked at every step of the way.
America’s saving grace is its vigorous system of checks and balances that were engineered into its founding documents during the Republic’s inception. For all President Trump intends to do, he can’t, precisely because of the limited executive powers he holds. Even with a Republican held House and Senate, he still faces significant checks and balances from an independent judiciary, a free press, a 230-year old Constitution and the millions of politically active citizens ready to make their voices heard on the streets. None of these checks and balances exist in Singapore. If Trump were in charge of Singapore, he’d have far more executive power and freedom to implement his agenda than he would in the America.
A PAP dominated Parliament
In America, President Trump has to contend with a sizable Democratic opposition both in the House and Senate. In Singapore, one political party – The PAP holds 83 out of 89 seats. It takes a two thirds super majority to change the Constitution in Singapore. With the PAP’s domination comfortably over the key two thirds majority, Donald Trump could easily change the Constitution according to his wishes. Parliamentary debates would simply be reduced to a farce since every PAP MP would be expected to vote along party lines. Donald Trump could easily get his controversial immigration ban passed with a simple party whip.
A loyal and obedient state media
It’s hard to implement your political agenda when the pesky press are always scrutinizing your every move and criticizing your policies at any given opportunity. Not the case in Singapore. Donald Trump wouldn’t have to worry about a fourth estate because of the sorry state of press freedom in Singapore. In Reporters Without Borders (RWB)’s 2016 World Press Freedom Index, Singapore was ranked 154th out of 180 countries – the lowest among the developed world and on par with third world African dictatorships. Given Donald Trump’s loathing of the press, there is nothing he’d love more than a loyal and obedient state media to act as cheerleaders and defenders of his administration.
A rigged electoral system
For all the flaws of America’s electoral process, elections in Singapore bring a whole new meaning to the word “rigged”. Whether it’s blatant gerrymandering to dilute opposition votes, the GRC system which sets an entry barrier to other political parties or the absence of term limits, the very system in place that has kept the PAP in power for half a century will likely cement a Donald Trump administration.
Draconian laws criminalizing free speech
Protests and demonstrations on the streets are banned in Singapore. It is illegal to gather in groups of more than 4 people in Singapore without a permit. Donald Trump wouldn’t have to worry about pesky protesters showing up to his
coronation inauguration because the riot police in their iconic red vehicles would promptly show up to make mass arrests. If a blogger on the internet raises objections to his policies, Trump could simply use the MDA to serve a shut down order on the website or get internet providers to block the website altogether. Or he could borrow a page from PM Lee’s playbook and simply sue critics for defamation till they’re bankrupt.
Tough immigration laws
A key campaign promise Trump made in 2016 was to clamp down on what he called the “epidemic of illegals crossing our border”. In Singapore, Trump wouldn’t have to worry about legal obstructions to his plan to deport undocumented migrants because those extreme measures already exist. Illegal immigrants in Singapore face mandatory prison sentences, caning and subsequent deportation. And Trump would have no issue with fortifying the so called “border wall” given Singapore’s defense budget of 6.4% of GDP – one of the highest in the world. The refugee crisis would be a non-issue since Singapore has refused entry to any and all asylum seekers.
This article is not so much a damning verdict on Trump as it is on our own political system. The lack of checks and balances in Singapore will only enable future authoritarians by giving them the tolls necessary to stamp out opposition. When that day comes, it’ll be too late for Singapore.