Saturday, September 12, 2015


Singapore remains a special place for me having lived there for many years.
Sure, some may see it as a sterile, over regimented society, but those of us who remember vividly the Singapore of the 1960s and all its associated problems can but only marvel at its transformation into a modern, extremely wealthy, city state.

Singapore has been governed since its inception by the Peoples Action Party (PAP). Its main opposition is the Workers Party led by Low Tia Khiang.    The 2011 election saw the PAP share of the popular vote drop to a record low of 60% with opposition parties picking up a total of 10 seats in the 89 seat parliament.    There was speculation that this time round the opposition would increase their share of the vote against a backdrop of concern around transportation issues and the influx of foreign workers.

Yesterdays election saw the PAP achieve a crushing victory.   Its share of the vote increased by 10% to 70% and it won seats off the opposition.   The Singapore People's Party led by Chaim See Tong, the second largest opposition party, is now out of parliament altogether.

There is no doubt the 2011 election result caused the PAP considerable concern.    Over the last four years it made a concentrated effort to address identified issues.    Equally, their is no doubt the PAP benefited from the outpouring of grief and affection for the founding father of the PAP, Lee Kuan Yew (father of  B-G) who died earlier this year.    The opposition parties (there are seven of them) are generally fractured with the Workers Party the only credible opposition.    Its main problem is that its parliamentary presence is so small it cannot influence, in any meaningful way, the day to day operations of government.   Nevertheless, its presence ensures a semblance (and a semblance only) of parliamentary democracy.    Singapore remains effectively a one party state with the obvious caveat that this is is result of a FPP electoral system.

Some additional comment in no particular order of importance .

  • The deposit for a candidate wishing to contest the election is S14,500 (=NZ16,250).   In NZL the election deposit is $300.
  • Any political party fielding at least six candidates is entitled to broadcast air-time (TV and radio).   For the 2015 election the allocation was PAP, 13 minutes; Workers Party, 5.5 minutes; all other political parties combined, 18 minutes.
  • The day prior to polling day is designated a zero political activity day so as  to allow for a cooling off period prior to election day.     
  • There is no political polling allowed prior to the election nor is there exit polling. 
  • There were 2,304,331 votes cast = 93.56% turnout.   Voting is compulsory.  156,596 persons did not vote. I don't know the penalty for not voting but, dollars to donuts, there will be one.
  • Polls closed at 8.00 pm on Friday.    In a departure from the norm and in an attempt to quell speculation on election night, returning officers in each constituency were instructed to take a random sample of 100 votes, count them and advise the Elections Department of the result which was then released to the media.   What's interesting is that the sample vote results announced pretty much mirrored the final result. 
I think Lee Kwan Yew, looking down, would have smiled that enigmatic smile.


Anonymous said...

?enigmatic? smile.

Anonymous said...

I love your points 3 & 4 above (no political activity and no public polling). It would cause head explosions in the Media Party here - what would they lead the "News" with without their propaganda and left wing bias? It must help the voters to calmly choose the candidates they wish to represent us/themselves, rather than the orgy of smugness that permeates the media environment for our 4 - 6 week electoral silly season.


Anonymous said...

Singapore is effectively a benign dictatorship controlled by two or three families. The ruling party PAP has total control of the media which includes the Straits Times and TV. Up until five years ago the internet was controlled and censored.

The main opposition party has been pursued through the courts for the last twenty five years on spurious charges which keep them broke and the risks of a conviction means they have to stand down. There is the ethnicity question that is problem with the voting system as well. No Chinese will vote for anything other than a Chinese candidate, yet the Malay and Indian residents of the country do not have this opportunity.

Voting is not compulsory, just registration on the day where you can spoil your paper if you wish.

A lot of the positions in Singapores main Govt. controlled industries are political appointees and when I lived in Singapore in 2005 company noticeboards urged people to vote for PAP but any alternative exhortation was quickly removed.

The final vote of confidence in their own people by the Lee family is that their bodyguards and the palace guard are mercenaries, in this case Ghurkas.

It will change but only after blood has been shed.

Lord Egbut Nobacon

Howie said...

Yeah, the place isn't a democracy in any real sense. It's why tories love it so much; it gives them a chance to indulge their born to rule fantasies. Who needs a free press, respect for basic human rights and fair elections, right guys?

The Veteran said...

Gueez ... Lord E N and Howie are indulging their prejudices ... and their ignorance ... to respond.

The PAP is a centre/left Party (bet that hurts). It is founded on four major ideologies: pragmatism, meritocracy, multi-racialism and cummunitariarism (Asian values). Its economic ideology is based on the need for welfare spending, pragmatic economic interventionism and general Keynesian economic policy with (since 1980) a heavy dose of free market liberalism.

Yes, it has dealt to those who are seen as threatening to it and Singapore society in general. Tell me an Asian country that doesn't. This is Asia guys ... doesn't make it right measured against your sensitivities but see below for context.

In the Corruption Index for 2013 (latest edition) Singapore rates 5th (out of 177 countries measured).
The index incorporates abuse of power, bribery and secret dealings. NZL and Denmark are rated 1st equal; Finland and Sweden 3rd equal; Norway and Singapore 5th equal. As to the rest, Aust rates 9th, UK 14th and the US 18th. Kinda blows your argument out of the water.

Lord E N is talking absolute crap in arguing that no Chinese will vote for anything but a Chinese candidate ... authenticate please. And as for "yet the Malay and Indian residents do not have this opportunity" well, apart from being nonsensical, all parties put up ethnically balanced slates in the Group Constituencies where the winner takes all. For the record and by my count there were 13 Malay candidates elected, 7 Indian and 3 others.

Sorry E N ... voting is compulsory. It is seen as the duty of good citizenship. You can of course spoil your vote as a means of protest. A small number did. The penalty for not voting is to have your name removed from the roll. To get it back you pay a fee.

Yep ... there are a lot of Govt appointees to Govt controlled industries. Tell me country where this doesn't happen.

Finally, the Gurkha Contingent has been in existence since 1949 well before independence. It is a 'line' department of the Singapore Police Force. Its principal role is as the special guard force and it is currently used a a counter-terriorism force. It is commanded by a British Officer seconded from the British Army. The current commander is Deputy Assistant Commissioner Ross Foreman.

Lee Kwan Yew provided a good rational for its existence when he wrote at the time of the 'troubles' (just after independence) ... "When I returned to Oxley Road [Lee's residence], Gurkha policemen were posted as sentries. To have either Chinese policemen shooting Malays or Malay policemen shooting Chinese would have caused widespread repercussions."

The GC are a Singaporean institution just as they are a British Army institution. Call them mercenaries if you like (as a term of abuse) but they arn't going away any time soon.

gravedodger said...

Whereas in our glorious democracy, MPs can become a government minister after garnering a plurality that is in danger of deposit losing proportions, our media is the tool of a union affiliated to one party and sympathetic treatment is afforded to all who pledge support to the fast decaying NZLP, education is deeply embedded in the control of another union, we endure a prison system under the manipulation of yet another union who are hell bent on destroying a commercial governed public company that could reveal the incompetence of the Union mob, and Singapore is wrong in so many ways.

We need a good dose of East German master planning garnished with as much socialism as Possible.
What could possibly go wrong.

Anonymous said...

"Sorry E N ... voting is compulsory. It is seen as the duty of good citizenship. You can of course spoil your vote as a means of protest. A small number did. The penalty for not voting is to have your name removed from the roll. To get it back you pay a fee."
So this is your vision of a perfect right wing state is it? I knew the voting procedure was along those lines but I real wanted you to say it. How does he govt know which way you voted???? because all votes are numbered to an individual. Big Brother knows everything. If you vote for the opposition and you are in a well paid Govt job your career prospects are limited. The Ghurkas are indeed the Palace Guard and are the closest protection unit to the centre of power. They are hired in the same way as they would vet Australian ex SAS people, They are paid for by the Govt. and have no connection to Ghurka units in the British or Indian army, the exception being the Sultan of Brunei who also uses a Gkurka battalion which he has hired.

You have a situation where for the "Greater good" you have no political freedom whatsoever. A Chines resident will talk politics to me but will not discuss politics if another resident is within hearing. So many examples of this have occurred to me.

If you break down the number of constituencies with ethnicity you will find that all the Malay candidates come from the Kampongs surrounding Singapore city and the seven Indians come from places like little India where any self respecting Chinese would rather eat broken glass than live there.

What sort of democracy do you have when the people in power can monitor your vote and why do think this is acceptable behaviour??

Lord Egbut Nobacon

Anonymous said...

From Singapore:-

Back on the 6th September 1999 my late father had spoken on parliamentary democracy in parliament. Those of you who are interested may like to read his speeches and writing which can be found on page 126 of “Make it Right for Singapore”

He starts his response to a government motion by saying,

“ Mr Speaker, Sir, did I misread the motion on the Order Paper? I thought we were going to debate parliamentary democracy. But we heard this afternoon, Mr Speaker Sir, hardly anything about parliamentary democracy. We have been treated to speeches after speeches of how good the previous Parliaments have been, how effective, how they have men of integrity and so on and so on but not a word about parliamentary democracy except, I must hasten to add for the speech from Mr Chiam See Tong from the Opposition bench.”

He goes on to suggest that the PAP congratulatory motion be re-worded to read, “…regrets the persistent attempts and measures of the governments since 1965 to impede the growth of genuine parliamentary democracy and urges the present government to take such measures as may be necessary to facilitate the growth of genuine parliamentary democracy in Singapore.”

It was this continued failure of Singapore to make any real headway towards a parliamentary democracy which prompted him 37 years after his political debut, to found the Reform Party to fight specifically for constitutional reform. I can’t imagine what it has been like for Low the last 20 or 30 years. I have found myself defending my view that they term Opposition is an honourable and vital one for only three years now and it is exhausting.

In 2009 in an interview with Today Paper I was quoted as saying my aim in standing was to normalise democracy. Late in GE 2011 Mr Low stated that his aim was to “institutionalise democracy.” That may sound like the same thing but the two are different albeit working towards the same end goal. By ‘normalising ‘ democracy I mean that I want: to rid the word Opposition of its unmentionable connotations, to make party, ideological or philosophical allegiance an everyday action, to encourage normal citizens to join a party and stand for election and actually get everyone normalised to getting out and voting. The success of that aim was shown in a slew of new faces, in that we almost had no walkovers and in the way the following EP election was conducted.

Of course supporting the term Opposition was only part of it. I also had to advocate for the very term ‘Democracy’ itself -another dirty word in Singapore. And of course I had to present the alternative view point every time the term “Westminster style politics” and gridlock was brought up as a scare tactic. I continually bring up the Privy Council judgement to those who continue to refer to my father as a criminal and I think you all know my stand and support for Dr Chee just before GE when it looked as though he might be imprisoned.

We all of us need to entrench, respect and encourage our Opposition. In short without an Official Opposition we can’t claim to have parliamentary democracy.

Whilst we move inexorably towards a true parliamentary democracy we must be aware of the pitfalls. An Opposition which forms a government in waiting can actually be a charade when the Opposition is to all extents and purposes the same as the government. Here in Singapore we must also be particularly vigilant against tokenism or a tame “opposition” created by the PAP in order to create an impression of democratic debate.

Along with the progress we have already made we can see more clearly the barriers to parliamentary democracy that need to be dismantled. Insulting Mr Low is one part of it. The impossibility of raising sufficient funds, the use of the courts, the ISA, the restriction on freedoms of assembly, the GRC system, the state controlled media. We all have a long way to go with our different approaches but even though in GE2011 didn’t open the floodgates we are seeing a clear crack in the dam. That crack will leak and the trickle will turn into a stream.

The Veteran said...

E N ... you protestith too much. Regarding voting ... compulsory voting is hardly the signature of the 'perfect right wing state' ... Australia has had it since time immemorial. Personally, I don't support it but it's their decision and I respect that. Voting papers in many western democracies are numbered as a protection against dual voting ... problem with that?. Again, go back to the World Transparency/ Corruption Index ... as I said, blows your argument out of the water.

And if you're going to argue the toss with me at least do me the courtesy of doing your homework. You comment re ethnicity is crap. There ain't too many Kampongs in Singapore any more and the non chinese MPs are spread far and wide.

How long did you spend in S'pore ... just askin.

For Anon 3.08 ... clearly you were wrong about the GE2011 crack turning into a stream.

Anonymous said...

It may come as something of a shock but Kampong or Kampung means village in the Tagalog language. Bukit Batok is a village so is Yew Tee even Sembawang by definition is village. Many have predominately Malay residents even the villages which are now tower blocks are ethnically divided. This is by human nature not Govt. decree.

No democratic country in the world looks over your shoulder to see how you voted or controls the media, right of protest or to hold political meetings the way Singapore has rigged it.

But that's OK with those whose politics are slightly left of Ghengis Khan.

Lord Egbut Nobacon

The Veteran said...

Gueez you are a patronizing prat and not a very bright one at that. Tagalog is the native language of the Phillipines. Bahasa Melayu is one of the official languages of Singapore. I happen to speak it reasonably fluently.

You also demonstrate your total ignorance of Singapore politics when you state that "the Malay candidates come from the Kampongs surrounding Singapore city and the seven Indians come from places like little India". We have dealt with the matter of (non) kampongs but, for the record the Malay MPs come from ten different GRCs while the Indian MPs come from six GRCs. Little India is located in the Jalan Besar GRC. The four elected MPs include three Chinese and one Malay. Again, suggest you do your homework so we can debate intelligently.

Don't want to get into a pissing contest either but I have lived in Changi, Chong Pang, Kangaw and Nee Soon (and Melaka in Malaysia) ... you and for how long?

Saya Terpaksa Berangkat Pergi.

Anonymous said...

Something unique to this forum and you in particular, an apology. I got it wrong, I lived for a period in Subic Bay and travelled (and still do) around the Far East including living in Sulawesi and Thailand and rely on my memory and experiences, not Wikipedia.

The Tagalog language shares much in common with Malay and the languages of Indonesia, most academics believe that the people are the same and Tagalog is just a generic term sometime used.

This is just a sideshow on the question of parliamentary democracy in Singapore and the abuse of power. You obviously have no idea of the underbelly of Singapore politics if you think that everything is kosher can be equated with western systems. The locals hate the Ghurkas, when I was there in 2012 a group of drunken Ghurka officers badly beat a local outside a bar, I did not see that in the Straits Times next day.

I strongly suggest you and everybody else read this, copy and paste in your browser

This is a chronological list of the abuse of power and due process.

I might also add that personal abuse is a sign of a weak argument and a bullying nature. I can also speak Malay, Mandarin, and Swahili, with the aid of Google translate.

The Veteran said...

E N ... couple of points. I don't measure S'pore by 'western' standards and indeed anyone who does that is missing the essential point. They do it their way.

As for your assertion that the locals 'hate' the Ghurkas ... I think they acknowledge them as a neutral force not to be trifled with. In the ethnic context they can be relied upon to act without fear or favour. Go back to the Maria Hertogh riots which saw 18 were killed (including 7 Europeans). There the Malay policeman stood back and refused to act as they saw it in terms of Christianity vs Islam. The Gurkhas would have quelled the riots in nano seconds.

It would be very rare for members of the GC to venture outside Mt Vernon. They tend to keep to themselves. How do you know they were Ghurka Officers. Were they in uniform? One thing I do know is that if what you allege was true then they would have been disciplined, dismissed from the force and sent packing back to Nepal.

You choose to patronize me.

Anonymous said...

They are disliked because they represent the security apparatus and have power over them, this offends the sense of racial superiority the the the Chinese have over those of Indian and Malay stock. Also the fact that the Ghurkas protect those in power which indicates that those same people do trust their citizens.

Do not mistake them for soldiers, they are not, they are hired security policemen dressed as soldiers.

I was wrong, it was reported in the Straits Times but only after other news agencies got the story first.

The Veteran said...

E N ... thank you for that. The last two paras in the report are instructive. Fits with my earlier comment.

Again, you fall into the trap of looking a S'pore thru western bifocals. S'pore is not 'us' neither is Malaysia, neither is Indonesia. They do it their way and I am not going to act as the 'Ugly American' to try and score a point.

Tong kosong nyaring bunyinya.