Singapore's ruling party tightens its grip on power

Economic threats and electoral system ensure PAP wins island state's poll, writes

Following the most savage election campaign in Singapore's history, the ruling People's Action Party (PAP) has retained its stranglehold on power by winning 81 of the 83 seats in parliament in yesterday's poll.

The opposition parties also lost ground in terms of the overall popular vote, gaining around a third of the total, compared with the 39 per cent they won in the 1991 election.

However, under Singapore's unique electoral system, winning this proportion of the vote yielded only two parliamentary seats for opposition parties.

In the course of the nine-day campaign the opposition generated far more excitement than the ruling party by holding monster rallies around the island. Candidates also reported an unusually high level of public positive response when campaigning door to door.

The campaign was dominated by savage attacks on one of the leading opposition politicians, the 61-year-old lawyer Tang Liang Hong, whom the PAP accused of being a "Chinese chauvinist". More significantly, however, the ruling party made it clear that those voting for the opposition would pay a high price for not supporting the government. The Prime Minister Goh Chok Tong threatened that his party would examine the election results precinct by precinct to identify where voters failed to support the PAP.

He said that the government would follow a "winner takes all" principle, meaning that those who supported the government would get better public services, while opposition areas would be left at the end of the queue. Mr Goh explained this as meaning that voters would "win big or lose big", depending on whether or not they voted for the ruling party.

Although the PAP fought the election as though it were fighting for its political life, it won the election before it began because the opposition contested only a minority of seats.

The ruling party made it clear that it saw no role for opposition members in parliament. "Opposition politicians are not what you call deep politicians," said Lee Kwan Yew, the grand old man of Singapore politics. "They are superficial ones." The PAP repeatedly described this election as a "watershed".

Last night Mr Goh said he was satisfied with the result because the voters "have rejected Western-style democracy and freedoms".

The election reduced the opposition from four members to two. They will have a difficult job representing the country's entire opposition in the face of an increasingly aggressive ruling party, showing few signs of looking for compromises.

The PAP will be particularly pleased to have defeated Chee Soon Juan, one of its most articulate critics in parliament.

It also took the scalp of JB Jeyaretnam, Singapore's most enduring opposition leader. However the biggest prize was the defeat of Tang Liang Hong. The PAP said it was justified in launching an onslaught on Mr Tang because he threatened to upset the delicate racial balance in the country, a charge he vigorously denied, saying that he had become the focus of the government's ire because he spoke for the mass of the people excluded from the political process.

Shortly before the poll MrGoh said that his personal standing and that of his two deputies were at stake should Mr Tang win. In the event he has strengthened his position against some internal party criticism.

The PAP has won all eight elections held since independence in 1965. Its political domination is heavily fortified by control of the media.

Start your day with The Independent, sign up for daily news emails
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
ebooks
ebooksA special investigation by Andy McSmith
  • Get to the point
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Sheridan Maine: Accounts Assistant

£25,000 - £30,000: Sheridan Maine: Are you looking for a fantastic opportunity...

Neil Pavier: Commercial Analyst

£50,000 - £55,000: Neil Pavier: Are you a professionally qualified commercial ...

Loren Hughes: Financial Accountant

£45,000 - £55,000: Loren Hughes: Are you looking for a new opportunity that wi...

Ashdown Group: IT Support Engineer - Professional Services Firm - Oxford

£21000 - £24000 per annum + 21 days holidays: Ashdown Group: Technical Support...

Day In a Page

No postcode? No vote

Floating voters

How living on a houseboat meant I didn't officially 'exist'
Louis Theroux's affable Englishman routine begins to wear thin

By Reason of Insanity

Louis Theroux's affable Englishman routine begins to wear thin
Power dressing is back – but no shoulderpads!

Power dressing is back

But banish all thoughts of Eighties shoulderpads
Spanish stone-age cave paintings 'under threat' after being re-opened to the public

Spanish stone-age cave paintings in Altamira 'under threat'

Caves were re-opened to the public
'I was the bookies’ favourite to be first to leave the Cabinet'

Vince Cable interview

'I was the bookies’ favourite to be first to leave the Cabinet'
Election 2015: How many of the Government's coalition agreement promises have been kept?

Promises, promises

But how many coalition agreement pledges have been kept?
The Gaza fisherman who built his own reef - and was shot dead there by an Israeli gunboat

The death of a Gaza fisherman

He built his own reef, and was fatally shot there by an Israeli gunboat
Saudi Arabia's airstrikes in Yemen are fuelling the Gulf's fire

Saudi airstrikes are fuelling the Gulf's fire

Arab intervention in Yemen risks entrenching Sunni-Shia divide and handing a victory to Isis, says Patrick Cockburn
Zayn Malik's departure from One Direction shows the perils of fame in the age of social media

The only direction Zayn could go

We wince at the anguish of One Direction's fans, but Malik's departure shows the perils of fame in the age of social media
Young Magician of the Year 2015: Meet the schoolgirl from Newcastle who has her heart set on being the competition's first female winner

Spells like teen spirit

A 16-year-old from Newcastle has set her heart on being the first female to win Young Magician of the Year. Jonathan Owen meets her
Jonathan Anderson: If fashion is a cycle, this young man knows just how to ride it

If fashion is a cycle, this young man knows just how to ride it

British designer Jonathan Anderson is putting his stamp on venerable house Loewe
Number plates scheme could provide a licence to offend in the land of the free

Licence to offend in the land of the free

Cash-strapped states have hit on a way of making money out of drivers that may be in collision with the First Amendment, says Rupert Cornwell
From farm to fork: Meet the Cornish fishermen, vegetable-growers and butchers causing a stir in London's top restaurants

From farm to fork in Cornwall

One man is bringing together Cornwall's most accomplished growers, fishermen and butchers with London's best chefs to put the finest, freshest produce on the plates of some of the country’s best restaurants
Robert Parker interview: The world's top wine critic on tasting 10,000 bottles a year, absurd drinking notes and New World wannabes

Robert Parker interview

The world's top wine critic on tasting 10,000 bottles a year, absurd drinking notes and New World wannabes
Don't believe the stereotype - or should you?

Don't believe the stereotype - or should you?

We exaggerate regional traits and turn them into jokes - and those on the receiving end are in on it too, says DJ Taylor