Find a Security Clearance Job!

Military


Singapore - Parliamentary Election 2011

Singapore is a parliamentary republic in which the People's Action Party (PAP), in power since 1959, overwhelmingly dominates the political scene. Opposition parties actively participated in the May 7 parliamentary elections and the August 27 presidential election, which were generally free and fair; however, the PAP continued to benefit from procedural obstacles in the path of political opponents. Security forces reported to civilian authorities. Voting is compulsory, and 93 percent of eligible voters voted in the most recent general election.

Prior to the elections, the government came under criticism over rising housing prices, crowded public transport and the increasing number of foreign workers. During the election campaign, Prime Minister Lee presented his apologies - a rare act - and promised to do his best to fix those problems during his next term. The PAP pledged to improve the lives of lower-income Singaporeans. The WPS pledged to bring greater diversity to the newly elected parliament. It deplored the small number of opposition forces represented in the outgoing parliament and underscored the need to correct the imbalance which, in its view, reduced parliament to a rubber stamp for the government's agenda. It called on voters to change the situation, in which one party decided everything. WPS leader Low Thia Khiang led a strategic campaign in the five-member GRC in Aljunied, trying to defeat the group of candidates led by Foreign Minister George Yeo (PAP).

Following the 2011 elections, the PAP (having captured 60.1 percent of the vote) held 81 of 87 elected constituency seats in this 12th Parliament. Six opposition parties combined for 39.8 percent of the vote and one of them, the WP, won six elected seats, including their first-ever group representation constituency (GRC). A constitutional provision assures at least nine opposition members in Parliament; there were three nonconstituency members of Parliament (NCMP) in the 12th Parliament, two from the WP and one from the Singapore Peoples Party. NCMPs are chosen from the highest finishing runners-up in an election.

The national elections held in May 2011 were free, fair, and open to a viable opposition. The general elections operate under the first-past-the-post system. Following the May elections, the PAP (having captured 60.1 percent of the vote) held 81 of 87 elected constituency seats in parliament. Six opposition parties combined for 39.8 percent of the vote and one of them, the Workers Party (WP), won six elected seats, including their first ever Group Representation Constituency (GRC). A constitutional provision assures at least nine opposition members in parliament; there are three non-constituency members of parliament (NCMP) in the 12th parliament, two from the WP and one from the Singapore Peoples Party. NCMPs are chosen from the highest finishing runners-up in an election.

The government has broad powers to limit citizens rights. While the 2011 general and presidential elections generally were seen as open, free, and fair, the government benefitted from the use of legal restrictions that handicap the political opposition. The Internal Security Act (ISA) permits preventive detention without warrant, filing of charges, or normal judicial review; in recent years it has been used against alleged terrorists and was not used against persons in the political opposition.

The government prohibits organized political activities except by groups registered as political parties or political associations. This prohibition limits opposition activities disproportionately and contributes to restricting the scope of unofficial political expression and action. The PAP was able to use nonpolitical organizations, such as residential committees and neighborhood groups, for political purposes far more extensively than opposition parties. Political associations are subject to strict financial regulations, including a ban on receiving foreign donations. Due to laws regulating the formation of publicly active organizations, there were few NGOs apart from nonpolitical organizations such as religious groups, ethnically oriented organizations, environmental groups and providers of welfare services.

The PAP has an extensive grassroots system and a carefully selected, highly disciplined membership. The establishment of government-organized and predominantly publicly funded Community Development Councils (CDCs) further strengthened the PAPs position. The CDCs promoted community development and cohesion and provided welfare and other assistance services. The PAP dominated the CDCs even in opposition-held constituencies from which it threatened to withdraw publicly funded benefits.

The PAP completely controlled key positions in and out of government, influenced the press, and benefited from weak opposition parties. Often the PAPs methods were fully consistent with the law and the normal prerogatives of a parliamentary government, but the overall effect was to perpetuate PAP supremacy. The constitutional requirement that members of parliament resign if expelled from their party helped ensure backbencher discipline. Since 1988 the PAP changed all but 12 single-seat constituencies into GRCs of four to six parliamentary seats, in which the party with a plurality wins all of the seats. According to the constitution, such changes are permitted to ensure ethnic minority representation in parliament; each GRC candidate list must contain at least one ethnic minority candidate. These changes made it more difficult for opposition parties, all of which had very limited memberships, to fill multimember candidate lists. The opposition fielded candidates in 26 of the 27 constituencies in the 2011 general elections.

There were 28 registered political parties, seven of which were active. Six opposition parties contested the 2011 general elections. Although political parties legally were free to organize, they operated under the same limitations that applied to all organizations, and the authorities imposed strict regulations on their constitutions, fundraising, and accountability. Government regulations hindered attempts by opposition parties to rent office space in government housing blocks or to establish community foundations. In addition government influence extended in varying degrees to academic, community service, and other NGOs. Political organizations are subject to strict financial regulations, including a ban on receiving foreign donations. During the year there were reports that government regulations hindered attempts by opposition parties to rent office space in government housing blocks or establish community foundations. In addition government influence extended in varying degrees to academic, community service, and other NGOs.

The opposition continued to criticize what it described as PAP abuse of its incumbency advantages to handicap opposition parties. The PAP maintained its political dominance in part by circumscribing political discourse and action; however, restrictions were relaxed during the campaign period. The belief that the government might directly or indirectly harm the employment prospects of opposition supporters inhibited opposition political activity; however, there were no confirmed cases of such retaliation. Although political parties were legally free to organize, they operated under the same limitations that applied to all organizations, and authorities imposed strict regulations on their constitutions, fundraising, and accountability.

The law provides for a president to be popularly elected for a six-year term from among candidates approved by a constitutionally prescribed committee selected by the government. In 2011 Tony Tan was elected president in the first contested presidential election since 1993. In the four-way race Tan won with 35.2 percent of the vote.

Some believed that PM Lee Hsien Loong's instincts were toward a loosening of political controls more in keeping Singapore's developed status and the times, but the strength of his father's character would prevent any real change as long as LKY was alive. Given LKY's stature and continued prominence, it was not surprising that PM Lee had been unwilling or unable to tone down Singapore's many restrictions on freedom of speech and assembly. In his first major address as PM, he encouraged Singaporeans to "speak your voice, be heard" and promised a greater openness for political dialogue. PM Lee recognized the need for openness as a means to encourage creativity and risk taking in a society where many looked to the government to take the lead. The pay off would come by fostering the entrepreneurship and innovation Singapore's economy needed to stay competitive, but not lead to anyone challenging the PAP's political dominance. However, that early promise for more openness was quickly cast aside.

On 11 May, 87-year old Mr. Lee Kuan Yew resigned as Cabinet's Mentor, stating that the time has come for a younger generation to carry Singapore forward. On 2 July, President S. R. Nathan announced that he would not stand for a new term. In the presidential polls held on 27 August, Mr. Tony Tan Keng Yam was elected as the new President. On 10 October, the newly elected Parliament held its first session and elected Mr Michael Palmer of the PAP as its new Speaker.




NEWSLETTER
Join the GlobalSecurity.org mailing list


Unconventional Threat podcast - Threats Foreign and Domestic: 'In Episode One of Unconventional Threat, we identify and examine a range of threats, both foreign and domestic, that are endangering the integrity of our democracy'


 
Page last modified: 28-06-2020 21:07:33 ZULU