[About this blog] Inspired by local soccer player Mike Lim during my rookie reporter days at Singapore Polytechnic, I set up this blog in August 2002. I feel that blogging is a novel platform to document interesting facets of my life and my thoughts on certain issues. [Email blogger] ephraim@singnet.com.sg

Saturday, April 04, 2009

[A word on the PAP and general elections]
I've been watching blogs and websites that have written about the elections and so far what I have read are what people mostly think of the general elections and their anticipations.

I have been guilty of that too. Elections are linked to the idea of democracy and since I have been doing a paper of comparative democracy in Thailand and Singapore, I've been reading many academic papers on the subject. Freedom House, a website on democracy classifies Singapore as "partly free" and our score on "political rights" is 5 while "civil liberties" is 4.

That does not say very much. It is difficult to quantify "political rights" and "civil liberties". At least that is how I feel.

While doing research on Thailand, I came across a chart comparing the number of MPs elected versus those who have been appointed into the House as a percentage. The elected members are important to have an idea of democracy in Thailand therefore I decided to do the same for the Singapore case by adapting this methodology.

I compared the number of PAP MPs that were uncontested or unopposed (hence there was not voting for them) against those who were voted for and came up with a percentage.

From the data, 87.0 percent of PAP candidates that were fielded did not experience the "baptism of fire" in the first general election in 1968. The subsequent general election in 1972 had put a large percentage of PAP candidates through the test. In the last general elections in 2006, 44 percent of the candidates that were fielded by the PAP had a walkover and were appointed into office. This means 37 candidates out of the 84 that were fielded took the route to Parliament without any contest.

Next, I looked at the percentage of Singaporeans that were allowed to vote over the last 10 general elections. This data would be quite relative to the data on the percentage of candidates that were unopposed. The highest percentage of voters in an election was in 1972 at a high of 89.5 percent. In the last general elections, 56.6 percent of the electorate had a chance to vote.

Lastly, I looked at the support of the PAP over the last 10 general elections. This is measured as a percentage of vote share among the number of votes cast. The PAP had the highest vote share in the first elections. It was 86.7 percent. After the oil crisis in 1985, the vote share of PAP had dipped by 16 percentage points. During the currency crisis circa 1997/1998, the percentage of votes for the PAP climbed from 61 percent to 65 percent. In 2001, on the onset of the 9/11 crisis, votes for the PAP soared from 65 percent to 75.3 percent.

I hope this paints a more comprehensive picture of general elections in Singapore in addition to what others have been writing. Feedback is most welcome in the form of comments and emails.


Anonymous Anonymous said...

Why frame your study after a country like Thailand which has clearly not been a good example of parliamentary electoral system? Why not Australia, NZ or Canada which were all part of the Commonwealth and Westminster system? Is political rights and democracy only about being able to hold elections or is it about practising freedoms of speech, expression, assembly etc? Clearly too, the former is the LKY-PAP brand, and you seem to fall in line too. With that system, in-between, the peasants are expected to hunker down, tighten their belts while the rulers rule, and be happy if they are lucky to be not in a walkover constituency so they can get to exercise that one vote once every 5 years? This is the only time the peasant is made to feel all-important, and often it is just an illusion.

Sunday, April 05, 2009 3:17:00 am

Blogger Ephraim Loy 黎传志 said...

My study is on comparative democracy in South East Asian countries. Since I have researched largely on Thailand, I chose to do a comparative study on Singapore and Thailand. There's more to democracy than free and fair elections, freedoms of speech, expression, assembly etc. Scholars like Dahl and Huntington frame it differently. I am not sure about the illusion part though.

Sunday, April 05, 2009 2:18:00 pm

Blogger Christopher said...

Ephraim, interesting statistics but what are your conclusions from the charts? Are there any correlations or parallels that you can draw from previous voting patterns? Is there a trend downwards in PAP support? Are the conditions this year similar to those in say, 1988?

Wednesday, April 08, 2009 1:55:00 am

Blogger Ephraim Loy 黎传志 said...

A very significant change in support for the PAP was in 1988 if that is what you are asking. Coincidentally, the GRC system was introduced in 1988. One could argue that the GRC system allowed more MPs to be elected into office unopposed. Another explanation for the GRC system to to allow significant numbers of minority races - basically about racial representation. Many Singaporeans say they are given little chance to vote at elections however the percentage of people that are able to vote has been fluctuating over the years. That said, they could be in GRCs or SMCs that have "heavyweight" politicians.

Conversely, one should also look at the statistics of the opposition. The number of opposition parties have decreased over the years. Some have been reorganised. However, the constant trend is that the Worker's Party has had a close fight over many elections. There was also a time where the Singapore Democratic Party was doing quite well as compared to the present (no prizes for guessing why).

I am not sure why you meant "this year". I guess you are presuming that elections would be held this year. I sense that the opposition is gearing up. But to take this challenge a step further, I would like to ask this: "Is the opposition disadvantage since they do not have an opposition GRC at the moment? How would things turn out if the opposition wins a GRC? Is that their barrier to entry and if that happens would it be a significant milestone in Singapore politics?"

I do not know the answer to that.

Wednesday, April 08, 2009 4:11:00 pm


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