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Singapore - Parliamentary Election 2015

Singapore is a parliamentary republic where the Peoples Action Party (PAP), in power since 1959, overwhelmingly dominated the political scene. Observers considered the 2015 general election as open and free, with the major opposition party winning six seats in Parliament. The by-election held in 2013 also was viewed as open and free, with the major opposition party winning the contested seat. Civilian authorities maintained effective control over the security forces.

The Constitution provides that the elections should by January 2017: but many expected it to be called at the end of 2015 or early 2016. They were held shortly after the country's 50th anniversary of independence, on 31 August 2015. During the election campaign, the major parties focused on measures to tackle the rising cost of living and housing problems after an increase in the levels of immigration to the city State.

Singapores ruling party won the city-states election for the 12th consecutive time during its parliamentary election on 11 September 2015. This was the Peoples Action Party (PAP) most challenging election yet as Singapore was experiencing a weakening economy and opposition parties contested every parliamentary seat for the first time since Singapores independence in 1965. In the Singaporean parliament, 76 members were directly elected by bloc vote in 16 multi-member constituencies and 13 were directly elected by simple majority vote in single member constituencies for a total of 89 seats in parliament.

The number of directly elected seats increased from 87 to 89, in accordance with the Report of the Electoral Boundaries Review Committee of 21 July 2015. It recommended 13 Single-Member Constituencies (SMCs) and 16 Group Representation Constituencies (GRCs) for the 2015 elections, up from the current 12 SMCs and 15 GRCs. In accordance with Article 52 of the Parliamentary Elections Act, the number of non-constituency members is calculated by subtracting the total number of opposition members elected to Parliament from nine. The election commission initially declared that one woman and two men from the WPS had been elected as non-constituency members. However, Ms Lee Li Lian, an elected MP of the outgoing legislature, declined to take up her seat. She will remain a non-constituency member until the newly elected Parliament, due to be convened in January 2016, declares her seat vacant.

The parliamentary general election was free, fair, and open to a viable opposition. There were eight opposition parties, and all seats were contested for the first time since independence. The ruling party secured a decisive win with 69.9 percent of the popular vote, capturing 83 of 89 seats in parliament. The opposition Workers Party (WP) was re-elected to the six seats it had won in the 2011 general election. The general elections operate under the first-past-the-post system. A constitutional provision assures at least nine opposition members in parliament; there were three nonconstituency members from the WP in the 12th Parliament that was dissolved in August, chosen from the highest-finishing runners-up in the election.

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

The opposition continued to criticize what it described as PAP abuse of its incumbency to restrict opposition parties. The PAP maintained its political dominance in part by circumscribing political discourse and action. 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, cohesion, and provided welfare and other assistance services.

The PAP controlled key positions in and out of government, influenced the press, and benefited from weak opposition parties. 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 power. The constitutional requirement that members of Parliament (MPS) resign if expelled from their party helped ensure backbencher discipline.

Although political parties were legally free to organize, authorities imposed strict regulations on their constitutions, fundraising, and accountability, including a ban on receiving foreign donations. There were 29 registered political parties, nine of which were active. In addition government influence extended in varying degrees to academic, community service, and other NGOs.

Lee Kuan Yew, who transformed the island into an economic powerhouse during his ruling, died in March 2015. His death sparked strong national pride among Singaporeans, and after celebrating the 50th anniversary of Singapores independence, Lees son Prime Minister Lee Hsie Long called for early elections in what seemed a strategy to take advantage of patriotic feelings.

The election had only a stunning nine days of political campaigning - the shortest legally allowed by the Election Department. It saw a reinvigorated opposition that used social media to bring their message across to Singaporeans, rather than through state-controlled media outlets.

Despite the oppositions gains in the 2011 polls where PAP gained only 60.1 percent of the vote, its lowest percentage of support in history - the ruling party secured a sweeping victory in 2015 with 83 of the 89 seats. Of the eight opposition political parties, only the Workers Party (WP) was able to obtain six seats in parliament.

Despite massive turnout at opposition rallies, insistent complaints of government failings, and some formidable challengers, the incumbent Peoples Action Party (PAP) increased its vote share by nearly 10 percent, to 70 percent, and won back one constituency, to secure a total of 83 out of 89 seats.

Meredith L. Weiss wrote: "Pundits strove to make sense of a seemingly anomalous result; while a PAP win was certain, only few had anticipated the partys actually gaining ground. Most credited the result to: a mixture of a slew of goodies for all, delivered since the PAPs poor showing at the previous election; the hubristic afterglow of Singapores 50th anniversary celebrations one month previously; fealty to the beloved Lee Kuan Yew, who passed away in March; persistent fear of a freak result, in which the opposition actually forms the government; the PAPs increased efforts to respond to bread-and-butter grievances and appear more human and humane; concerns over the oppositions competency at municipal management; gerrymandering and consummate political surfing; the lesser reputation or credibility especially of the smaller, newer opposition parties; and, national security amidst political/economic meltdown in Malaysia, debilitating air pollution from Indonesia, Syrias Islamic State, and invocation of an earlier 9/11."

The law provides for the popular election of the president to a six-year term from among candidates approved by two committees selected by the government. The constitution also requires multiracial representation in the presidency. The office of the president is reserved for a member of a specific racial community (Chinese, Malay, or Indian and other minority communities) if no person belonging to that community had held the office of the president for any of the last five terms of office. The 2017 presidential election was thus restricted to eligible Malay candidates. In 2017 former speaker of parliament Halimah Yacob became president without a vote because she was the only candidate; two other applicants were ruled ineligible according to criteria applicable to private sector candidates.




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