Elections: Sowing Seeds of Change—Singapore

Elections: Sowing Seeds of Change—Singapore

This article is part of a series that will be released before the end of 2015, drawing from The Contour‘s annual print issue titled Upheaval, Revolution & Tragedy: The World of 2015 which can be found online at The Contour: Print Edition

Singapore has been governed by PAP (People’s Action Party) for the last 50 years and in the September election of 2015, PAP won 83 out of 89 seats in the Parliament, nearly 70 percent. The party was formed by Lee Kuan Yew, a former prime minister of 31 years, who is known as the founding father of Singapore. This election, held shortly after the death of Lee Kuan Yew is the first in which uncontested districts of Singapore have now been given the right to vote. PAP’s sweeping victory is not particularly deviant. It has won every election since 1959, and the lowest share of votes PAP received rounded to 60 percent in 2011.

Lee Kuan Yew, perhaps the most acclaimed figure in Singapore’s history, directed Singapore into independence from Britain and led the state to become a flourishing first world economy. Although revered as an “architect of Singapore’s prosperity”, Lee Kuan Yew is arraigned by many for the restrictions he placed on the press and freedom of speech, and his party’s calculated attacks on opponents in courts. Even as Lee Kuan Yew’s ideals transformed Singapore into one of the world’s leading financial centers, Singapore and its denizens have the highest poverty rate and the lowest median income among the developed world.

As the governing party, the PAP is often able to manipulate elections, withholding housing funds and other necessities from districts that do not vote for PAP. The effects of single-party domination is therefore a main concern for PAP opposers. “A diverse parliament is critical in assisting the executive to make sounder judgments about policy trade-offs,” the opposition Workers’ Party says. “A parliament monopolized by one party fails the test of rigorous debate and voting in forging sound policies.”

by Sara Dasgupta ’19