News / Asia

Singapore Election is Most Contested Since Independence

Singapore's Deputy Prime Minister Wong gestures during the final election campaign rally of the ruling People's Action Party (PAP) in Singapore, May 5, 2011
Singapore's Deputy Prime Minister Wong gestures during the final election campaign rally of the ruling People's Action Party (PAP) in Singapore, May 5, 2011
Daniel Schearf

Singaporeans are going to the polls Saturday for the most contested election since 1965, when the city-state gained independence from Britain.  The People’s Action Party (PAP), which has ruled post-independence Singapore, is expected to win.  But analysts say it is facing increasing challenges that have eroded its popularity. 

The PAP of Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong has ruled Singapore since 1965.

Until recently, analysts say, opposition parties have been unwilling or unable to challenge PAP rule.  

The party's policies have changed the city-state from a poor, colonial port into a rich, regional hub for business.

And, unlike most Asian countries dominated by a single party, Singapore is a beacon of prosperity and good governance.

But in Saturday's election, opposition candidates are competing for all but five of parliament's 87 seats, making it the most contested poll since independence.

Gillian Koh, a researcher on politics and governance at Singapore’s Institute of Policy Studies, says opposition parties agree with most PAP policies, making competition difficult.

"The People's Action Party has been in government for 52 years because it has delivered on good governance, on economic development," Koh said. "But, its detractors have always said the pace of political development has always paled in comparison."

In past elections opposition parties, aware of their chances, contested only a fraction of available offices and have held, at most, just a few seats in parliament.

But, Koh says they have been able to capitalize on recent discontent with the PAP over rising costs of living, government accountability, and immigration.

Foreign workers make up about one-third of Singapore’s population, leading many Singaporeans to complain about competition for jobs and clogged public transport.

Consequently, the PAP’s share of the popular vote dropped from 75 percent in the 2001 election to 67 percent in 2006.

Koh says despite public grumbling and the unprecedented challenge at the polls, the PAP remains immensely popular for its effective response to public concerns.  

"The PAP's fundamental legitimacy stands on its ability to deliver growth and also on being clean," Koh said.  "Because, when it first came to power, how it presented itself was that it was really the opposite of what existed in Singapore at that time.  And, it’s realized that it has to keep those pillars of legitimacy."

The government has already revised immigration controls and promised to improve transport and social services.  

In the lead up to the election, authorities also allowed some opposition criticism in the normally tightly controlled state media and the Internet.

The PAP has been accused of using defamation lawsuits to silence critics and harsh punishments for drug dealers and vandals to maintain order.

Singapore also outlaws political discussion of race and religion.

Prime Minister Lee’s father and Singapore’s architect, Lee Kuan Yew, co-founded the party and argues the controls are necessary to prevent splits in society.

He was prime minister under the PAP until 1990, and remains an advisor in the cabinet.

You May Like

Pakistan Among Developing Countries Hit Hard by Global Warming

Pakistani officials hope developed nations agree to scale back emissions, offer help in dealing with climate change

Video Speed, Social Media Shape Counterterrorism Probes

Speed is critical in effort to prevent subsequent attacks; demographics of extremists lend themselves to communicating, establishing profiles on digital platforms

Islamic State Oil Trade Seduces Friends, Foes Alike

Terrorist group rakes in up to $500 million a year in sales to customers such as Syrian government, US-supported rebels and Turkey

This forum has been closed.
There are no comments in this forum. Be first and add one

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
Social Media Aids Counter-Terrorism Investigationsi
Katherine Gypson
December 01, 2015 10:06 PM
In the aftermath of the Paris attacks, officials carried out waves of raids and arrests to break up terror cells. As VOA's Katherine Gypson reports, social media can be a key tool for investigators.

Video Social Media Aids Counter-Terrorism Investigations

In the aftermath of the Paris attacks, officials carried out waves of raids and arrests to break up terror cells. As VOA's Katherine Gypson reports, social media can be a key tool for investigators.

Video Russia Marks World AIDS Day With Grim News

While HIV infection rates have steadied or even declined in many European countries, the caseload has grown rapidly in Russia, as VOA's Daniel Schearf reports from Moscow. Over half of the new infections were transmitted through injection drug use.

Video Pakistan Hit Hard by Global Warming

As world leaders meet in Paris to craft a new global agreement aimed at cutting climate-changing greenhouse-gas emissions, many developing countries are watching closely for the final results. While most developing nations contribute much less to global warming than developed countries, they often feel the effects to a disproportionate degree. As Saud Zafar reports from Karachi, one such nation is Pakistan. Aisha Khalid narrates his report.

Video With HIV, Can We Get to Zero?

The theme of this year's World AIDS Day is "Getting to Zero." The U.N. says new HIV infections have been reduced by 35 percent since 2000 and AIDS-related deaths are down by 42 percent since the peak in 2004. VOA's Carol Pearson takes a look at what it might take to actually have an AIDS-free generation.

Video Political Motives Seen Behind Cancelled Cambodian Water Festival

For the fourth time in the five years since more than 350 people were killed in a stampede at Cambodia’s annual water festival, authorities canceled the event this year. Officials blamed environmental reasons as the cause, but many see it as fallout from rising political tensions with a fresh wave of ruling party intimidation against the opposition. David Boyle and Kimlong Meng report from Phnom Penh.

Video African Circus Gives At-Risk Youth a 2nd Chance

Ethiopia hosted the first African Circus Arts Festival this past weekend with performers from seven different African countries. Most of the performers are youngsters coming form challenging backgrounds who say the circus gave them a second chance.

Video US Lawmakers Brace for End-of-Year Battles

U.S. lawmakers are returning to Washington for Congress’ final working weeks of the year. And, as VOA's Michael Bowman reports, a full slate of legislative business awaits them, from keeping the federal government open to resolving a battle with the White House over the admittance of Syrian refugees.

Video Taiwan Looks for Role in South China Sea Dispute

The Taiwanese government is one of several that claims territory in the hotly contested South China Sea, but Taipei has long been sidelined in the dispute, overshadowed by China. Now, as the Philippines challenges Beijing’s claims in an international court at The Hague, Taipei is looking to publicly assert its claims. VOA’s Bill Ide has more from Beijing.

Video After Terrorist Attacks, Support for Refugees Fades

The terrorists who killed and injured almost 500 people around Paris this month are mostly French or Belgian nationals. But at least two apparently took advantage of Europe’s migrant crisis to sneak into the region. The discovery has hardened views about legitimate refugees, including those fleeing the same extremist violence that hit the French capital. Lisa Bryant has this report for VOA from the Paris suburb of Cergy-Pontoise

Video Syrian Refugees in US Express Concern for Those Left Behind

Syrian immigrants in the United States are concerned about the negative tide of public opinion and the politicians who want to block a U.S. plan to accept 10,000 Syrian refugees. Zlatica Hoke reports many Americans are fighting to dispel suspicions linking refugees to terrorists.

Video Thais Send Security Concerns Down the River

As Thailand takes in the annual Loy Krathong festival, many ponder the country’s future and security. Steve Sandford reports from Chiang Mai.

Video Islamic State Unfazed by Losses in Iraq, Syria

Progress in the U.S.-led effort to beat Islamic State on its home turf in Iraq and Syria has led some to speculate the terror group may be growing desperate. But counterterror officials say that is not the case, and warn the recent spate of terror attacks is merely part of the group’s evolution. VOA National Security correspondent Jeff Seldin has more.

VOA Blogs