Singapore Elections 2011 Update

May 4, 2011

Singapore Elections 2011 Update

Singapore Prime Minister Makes a Rare Apology

By Raju Gopalakrishnan and Kevin Lim

SINGAPORE | Wed May 4, 2011 3:26pm IST

(Reuters)Singapore Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong has made a rare apology for mistakes his government may have made ahead of the toughest general election his People’s Action Party (PAP) has faced since coming to power in 1965.

The PAP will contest 82 of 87 parliamentary seats, up from just 47 of the 84 seats in the last parliament, in Saturday’s polls which come amid opposition irritation at higher housing prices and over-crowding on trains and buses caused, critics say, by lax immigration policies and an influx of foreigners.

Several ministers have also come under fire for their reluctance to acknowledge such problems.“If we didn’t quite get it right, I am sorry but we will try and do better the next time,” Lee told a rally on Tuesday in the city-state’s central business district, newspapers said.

Later he repeated: “Well, we’re sorry we didn’t get it exactly right, but I hope you’ll understand and bear with us because we’re trying our best to fix the problems.”

Chua Mui Hoong, a deputy editor at the pro-government Straits Times newspaper, said the speech was like no other from a PAP minister in recent years. “Mr Lee’s speech was remarkable for its public mea culpa. And it was remarkable for its — there is no other word for it — humility,” she wrote in a commentary.

Singapore has been ruled since independence by the PAP, which was co-founded by Lee’s father, Lee Kuan Yew. The elder Lee, the architect of modern Singapore, was prime minister until 1990 and remains a “minister mentor” in the cabinet.

The plain-talking 87-year-old has said of opposition demands for more checks and balances on the government: “It is a footloose generation that hasn’t experienced the past and believes that Singapore is flying safely and can go on autopilot and anybody can take over. I don’t happen to believe that. I think we will run into all kinds of bad weather and you need capable people in charge.”

The elder Lee, who has been returned unopposed to parliament, has also said that residents of a hotly contested multi-seat constituency will “have five years to live and repent” if they vote for the opposition.


The PAP won 67 percent of the popular vote in the 2006 elections, down from 75 percent in 2001, and 82 of the 84 seats.

“For this election, the PAP basically screwed up on immigration policies really badly. That has created all kinds of downstream hardships for Singaporeans,” said Chua Beng Huat, a sociologist at the National University of Singapore, citing the rise in home prices and competition for places in schools.

Foreigners now make up 36 percent of Singapore’s population of 5.1 million, up from around 20 percent of 4 million people a decade earlier, and the fast pace of immigration is the hottest issue among locals who have complained about competition for jobs and housing and the dilution of the national identity.

For the many overseas nationals who work in Singapore, and firms that use the city-state as their regional base, a key issue is whether the government will continue the immigration policies that makes it easy for foreigners to work in Singapore if there is a sharp drop in support for the PAP.

These policies underpin the attractiveness of Singapore as a regional hub for trade and manufacturing and as a major global centre for banking and finance, the major reason for its transformation from a colonial port to a shiny first world city-state.

And despite the recent setbacks and the barrage of criticism it faces over the Internet, most observers expect the PAP to retain its huge majority.

“The older Singaporeans have seen the transformation of Singapore from Third World to First World. For this group, the PAP’s performance legitimacy appeals to them,” said Eugene Tan, an assistant professor of law at Singapore Management University.

Tan also noted that the PAP will get a boost from the many recent migrants to Singapore. According to the Straits Times, nearly 90,000 people became citizens between 2006, when the last general elections were held, and last year.

“They are impressed by the Singapore story which is largely responsible for their sinking their roots in Singapore,” he said.

At most, other analysts say, the opposition will win one or two multi-seat constituencies and perhaps one or two single-seat constituencies.

There may be a drop in the percentage of votes for the PAP from the last election, but since people are elected on a first-past-the-post system, the number of seats may not be materially affected.

“In the overall picture, the PAP would still be in power,” said Chua. “There would be a lot more debate, that’s all.”

(Additional reporting by Walter Sim; Editing by Nick Macfie)

Singapore Elections 2011: Upping the Level of Discourse

May 3, 2011

Singapore Elections 2011: Upping the Level of Discourse

by Umapagan Ampikaipakan@

THE elections in Singapore have always been a foregone conclusion. Not for the obvious reasons. Not for those age-old objections. Not because the People’s Action Party rules with an iron fist. Not because of those carefully crafted electoral divisions. Not because of those Group Representation Constituencies that all but guarantee an unequal playing field for the opposition.

No, the elections in Singapore have always been a forgone conclusion for two reasons. The first being a question of mathematics. The second being a question of philosophy. And both being in concert with one another.

In the past, the opposition parties in Singapore have neither had the numbers nor the momentum. They have often left so many seats uncontested that the PAP has won by default on nomination day. In 2001, for example, the PAP won 55 of the 84 seats on nomination day. In 2006, the PAP won 47 of the 84 seats on nomination day.

In the past, the Singaporean electorate has always practised an overwhelming practicality when it came to the polls. They voted with their minds. For safety. For security. For prosperity. For more of the same. Because they believed that they were, all of them, on the same path, on the right path.And it worked. Mostly.

Their successes were unparalleled, their wealth and worth were unchallenged. It was progress so incredible that it became almost uncontrollable. It became the be all and end all. So much so that it began to run tangential with efforts to maintain a basic standard of life.

The last decade has brought with it its own unique set of problems. The very secrets of Singapore’s success have now become the source of its discontent. The very same economic and immigration policies that have served the nation well for almost five decades have now become rallying cries for the opposition. Because that gap between the haves and the have-nots has become unacceptable. The cost of living is skyrocketing. The housing market is barely affordable. So much so that opposition leaders are asking what is the point of having a First World Gross Domestic Product (GDP) with Third World PPP (purchasing power parity).

Because those foreigners, once so crucial, so necessary to the development of the country are now the wellspring of much fear and frustration. There is an anxiety that these imports are there merely to fulfil their own selfish economic needs. That they do not possess a sense of ownership over the nation. There is a growing concern that, if left unchecked, they will soon outnumber native Singaporeans.

It has opposition leaders asking what kind of Singapore do its citizens want. A Singapore for foreigners? Or a Singapore for Singaporeans? These are deep-seated anxieties that have taken root. They have manifested themselves in an energised opposition. They have resulted in one of the most exciting election seasons in Singapore’s history. Almost every seat is being challenged. The rallies are heaving. There is an excitement about politics and its consequences like never before.

Of course, none of this means that the PAP is in any real danger of losing their overwhelming majority. It isn’t like the opposition has, in any way, demonstrated how — or even if — they could do things better. They are hoping that political fatigue would push the electorate into their wide open arms. That the people have somehow grown up and grown out of the same old same old.

They are hoping that people will vote for them merely for the reason that they aren’t the PAP. Because their opposition, much like ours, is working on the premise that even though they may not be better than the other guy, at least they can’t be as bad. They are merely pleading for a chance. To be heard. To be tested.

So while it is highly unlikely that the opposition will make any real headway into Parliament, they have nevertheless still accomplished something. They have raised the level of discourse. They have increased the number of voices speaking. And that can only ever be a good thing.

Now, the only thing left to be seen come Saturday (May 7) is whether or not the voters can distinguish the many voices from the noise. Whether or not that Singaporean practicality will prevail. Whether or not they will vote with their hearts or their minds.

Thai Military Goes on Offensive as Election looms

May 2, 2011

Thai Military Goes on Offensive as Election looms

By Martin Petty–Reuters

PHANOM DONG RAK, Thailand, April 27 (Reuters) – Thailand’s military is on the offensive — and not just in its deadly border skirmishes with Cambodia.

For decades, the country’s history has been shaped by the balance of power between three institutions — the monarchy, the military, and parliament. With elections looming that could upset this fragile balance once again, Thailand’s generals have come out fighting.

For investors, the risks are rising. The last time the military grabbed a dominant role in politics, following a coup in 2006, the stock market collapsed following disastrous use of capital controls that took months to unwind.

There is also no guarantee that another bid by the military to reassert a dominant role would be as bloodless as in 2006.

Fighting on the border with Cambodia has killed at least 14 people since last Friday. Both sides blame each other. Thailand has rebuffed international mediation and withdrawn from defence ministerial talks, adding fuel to the crisis.

The timing is conspicuous. Prime Minister Abhisit Vejjaiva‘s government, which came to power in 2008 with the help of the military, plans to hold elections by July. Few have as much to lose as the military’s top brass if the opposition prevails.

Political analysts and government sources say Thailand’s top generals appear to be taking a two-pronged approach, fanning the crisis with Cambodia to unify Thais behind the army while going on the political offensive at home.

While Thailand has always had extraordinarily tough laws protecting its monarchy, they are being invoked with unusual frequency. In recent weeks, army chief Prayuth Chan-ocha has threatened legal action against a prominent academic advocating reform of the monarchy and against anti-government “red shirt” demonstrators allied with the opposition.

“Renewed violence on the border seems to relate to the Thai military’s current determination both to assert itself and to create an atmosphere of crisis,” said Michael Montesano, a Fellow at Singapore’s Institute of Southeast Asian Studies.

Which side is the main aggressor in the border conflict, the deadliest in nearly two decades, remains a mystery but few believe the fighting is really about sovereignty over heavily land-mined jungles and crumbling Hindu temples.

The election and a possible change in government could spell trouble for Thailand’s military, whose budget has swelled under the ruling coalition that came to power in a 2008 parliamentary vote influenced by the army.

At stake, too, is a royalist establishment fiercely at odds with the opposition, some of whose grass-roots supporters advocate republicanism and reforms to the monarchy at a delicate time with 83-year-old King Bhumibol Adulyadej, an almost divine figure whose picture is hung on the walls of millions of Thai homes, hospitalised since September 2009.

During a recent news briefing, the army’s spokesman said he hoped Thais would see a link between “monarchy-insulting elements” and “political groupings” before casting votes in the election, a comment widely seen as a veiled attempt to discredit the opposition Puea Thai Party and their “red shirt” allies. But such rhetoric could backfire for the military, and the monarchy it claims to protect.

 Lessons Learned

The opposition Puea Thai remains popular among Thailand’s rural poor and is tightly controlled by exiled former premier Thaksin Shinawatra, a divisive, twice-elected tycoon the military and royalist establishment toppled in the 2006 coup.

Since then, the military’s annual budget has nearly doubled to 154 billion baht ($5 billion). Rumours of another coup continue to swirl as insiders talk of strains in Abhisit’s ties with the armed forces.

Another coup could prevent the election and ensure the opposition stays out of power. But it could backfire and provoke violence from the red shirts whose protests last year paralysed Bangkok and led to clashes that killed 91 people.

“We have learned lessons from the 2006 coup. We are operating in a volatile environment now and just taking over peacefully isn’t going to happen, even if it’s the best thing for the country theoretically,” said a retired army officer close to the top generals. He requested anonymity.

The Thai army has for decades made protecting the monarchy a priority, guaranteeing the military political influence.”That balance of power between key institutions in Thailand is being threatened,” said Karn Yuenyong, director of Siam Intelligence Unit, an independent think tank.

“What we are seeing are reactions to that by all groups — those who want to maintain the status quo and those who are calling for reform of the institution (the monarchy).”

Ultra-nationalist “yellow shirts” and some influential conservatives fear pro-Thaksin forces could return to office, accelerating calls to reform the monarchy, and have urged a boycott of the poll. Some analysts say hawkish generals allied with nationalists could be trying to escalate the border conflict to scuttle the election.

“The border issue and sovereignty issue matter to a group of conservative elites in Thailand and this is one way the Thai army exerts its loyalty,” Karn added.

The monarchy is an extremely sensitive subject in Thailand. Perceived insults against the crown, or lese-majeste, carry jail terms of up to 15 years — the toughest in the world.

Prayuth has ordered legal action against three red shirt leaders for speeches made at an April 10 rally he said were offensive to the monarchy. Other army units followed suit with near-daily pledges of support for the King.

Three battalions of troops lined up last week in the pouring rain flanked by armoured trucks, helicopters and heavy machine guns in an elaborate combat exercise during which they pledged their allegiance to the royal institution.

A censorship blitz by an army-led Internal Securities Operations Command has led to the closure of radio stations, publications and tens of thousands of websites, while Prayuth has ordered army-owned Channel 5 TV to insert documentaries honouring the monarchy after each day’s royal news programmes.

 Lese Majeste–“A Political Weapon”?

Critics say the army is among a growing number of political players who are abusing the lese-majeste law to silence and slur their opponents. Some warn it could deepen a polarising crisis triggered by the military’s coup against Thaksin.

“The military used its loyalty to the monarchy to justify illegal action in launching a coup and has intensified the conflict,” said political scientist Pavin Chachavalpongpun.

“Lese-majeste is being used as a political weapon. It’s dangerous, because when used to undermine opponents, it risks undermining Thailand’s most important institution.”

Several Thai media commentators have argued that many of those filing lese-majeste complaints are exploiting the institution they claim to protect. “This sort of traitorous betrayal should be viewed as the worst of lese-majeste crimes,” wrote Bangkok Post columnist Voranai Vanijaka.

Jacob Ramsay, senior Southeast Asia analyst at consultants Control Risks, said Thailand’s military was clearly trying to raise its profile but he doubted it was seeking a bigger role.

“There are elements in the military we know are against early elections but it wants to keep out of politics,” he said. “The most telling factor is its budget has risen substantially since it staged a coup and that in itself is something worth protecting.”

(Additional reporting by Ambika Ahuja in Bangkok; Editing by Jason Szep and Andrew Marshall)

Keadaan Politik Tanah Air bertambah panas

1hb. Mei 2011

Keadaan Politik Tanah Air bertambah panas

Oleh Aspan Alias

Dalam masa dua hari ini keadaan politik bertambah panas. Ada dua tiga isu yang membuatkan suhu politik negara naik dengan mendadak. Pertamanya saranan Najib supaya PAS meninggalkan Pakatan Rakyat (PR) dan yang keduanya amaran keras Najib terhadap orang Cina jika kaum itu tidak memberikan sokongan kepada BN. Satu lagi isu ialah MCA telah melakukan ‘brainstorming’ di antara pemimpin di peringkat kawasan dan tertinggi untuk tidak menerima jawatan dalam kerajaan jika MCA di tolak oleh pengundi khususnya dari pengundi kaum Cina dalam pilihanraya yang akan datang.

Kaum Cina–Masaalah Parti MCA Yang di Pikul oleh UMNO-BN

Kaum Cina nampaknya menjadi sasaran hebat dan gertak mengertak di lakukan keatas kaum itu baik dari Pimpinan Melayu BN dan juga dari MCA sendiri. BN sedang memulas tangan kaum Cina kerana sokongan kaum itu terhadap BN sudah kian lemah. Dalam keadaan yang sama UMNO masih lagi belum pulih dari perasaan rendah diri kerana takut ditinggalkan oleh kaum Melayu.

Keadaan meruncing ini merupakan yang paling menyakitkan BN, malahan keadaan ini mungkin bertambah rumit lagi jika dibandingkan dari zaman Abdullah Badawi. ‘Intuition’ yang ada pada diri saya dengan jelas memberikan bayangan yang kali ini BN akan menghadapi keadaan yang jauh lebih rumit untuk mengekalkan kuasa dari pilihanraya 2008 yang lalu.

Kedudukan Politik Sarawak sudah berubah

Jika semasa pilihanraya dahulu gegaran terhadap BN hanya berlaku di Semenanjung tetapi kali ini undi popular BN di Malaysia timur telah jatuh dengan begitu besar sehinggakan negeri Sarawak sudah pasti tidak lagi kekal sebagai ‘fixed deposit’ bagi BN lagi. Dalam pada itu BN perpaduan BN di Sabah sudah menunjukan berlakunya pergolakan apabila parti LDP menuntut supaya BN di negeri itu tidak lagi diketuai oleh UMNO Sabah.

Politik Sabah: LDP dan UMNO

Apabila LDP membuat kenyataan itu Ahli-ahli DUN Sabah dengan tergesa-gesa telah membuat kenyataan untuk menyokong Musa Aman sebagai Ketua Menteri tanpa berbelah bagi. Tindakan ini merupakan satu lagi petanda yang BN khususnya UMNO di Sabah sudah sampai ke persimpangan.

Jika keadaan ini tidak terkawal maka Sabah juga tidak akan lagi menjadi simpanan tetap bagi BN pada masa yang terdekat ini. Susah untuk mencari alasan bagi menafikan keadaan ini.

Berbalik kepada ugutan Najib terhadap orang Cina, ianya merupakan tindakan yang membazir. Ianya membazir kerana dengan ugutan itu ianya menunjukan yang pemimpin kita sudah berada di dalam keadaan panik setelah tidak berjaya memujuk kaum Cina untuk menyokong BN melaui MCA di Semenanjung dan SUPP dari Sarawak. Jika seseorang pemimpin masih mempunyai keyakinan pada diri dan partinya sendiri, kenyataan yang berelimenkan ugutan tidak mungkin timbul.


Dalam nafas yang sama Najib telah meminta supaya PAS meninggalkan Pakatan Rakyat kerana pada pandangan PM Najib PAS tidak ada apa-apa keuntungan berada di dalam gugusan PR itu. Najib sudah sedar yang Melayu sendiri mempunyai parti alternatinya iaitu PAS seperti bangsa Cina mempunyai alternatifnya, DAP.

Dua bangsa terbesar di negara ini, Melayu dan Cina yang selama ini telah bersatu di dalam BN, sekarang ini sudah ada kecenderungan kedua-dua kaum terbesar ini untuk bersatu di luar BN. Isu yang diharapkan oleh BN untuk membantunya mendapat sokongan dari rakyat seperti isu sodomy Anwar dan video seks juga yang melibatkan Anwar telah gagal untuk dimunafaatkan oleh BN kerana keraguan rakyat terhadap BN lebih besar dari isu yang dipalitkan terhadap Anwar.

Sodomy 2 dan Skandal Video Seks menjadi ‘counter productive’ kepada BN

Malahan isu-isu itu telah menjadi ‘counter productive’ kepada BN pula. Politik seperti juga ilmu metamatik mempunyai formula yang jelas untuk diikuti supaya mendapat jawapan yang tepat. Formula kekuatan politik di negara ini khusunya di Semenanjung bergantung kepada dua kaum terbesar iaitu Melayu dan Cina. Jika kedua kaum terbesar ini bersatu di bawah BN maka BN lah yang akan meraih kuasa dari rakyat. Jika kedua-dua kaum ini memilih untuk bersatu di luar BN maka jawapannya mudah untk diketahui umum…tidak payah untuk disebut dan dinyanyikan.

Inilah yang menyebabkan Najib bertindak mengugut dan menekan kaum Cina supaya memberikan sokongan kepada BN. Tidak mungkin pemimpin nombor satu akan melakukan ugutan jika keadaan masih memihak kepadanya. Sebagai seorang pemimpin yang paling tinggi tentunya beliau akan melakukan kempen secara beretika dan ‘civil’ serta lebih demokratik.

Perlu “Soul Searching” yang intensif

BN patut sedar yang kaum Cina telah memberikan sokongan yang tidak berbelah bagi selama ini dan kecenderungan mereka untuk memberikan kepada pihak alternatif hanya berlaku sejak beberapa tahun dahulu sahaja. DAN berlakunya keadaan ini mesti bersebab yang datangnya dari pihak kita.

Tetapi oleh kerana segala cara telah dilakukan tetapi kaum Cina masih tidak menyokongnya maka adalah natural bagi PM Najib mengugut kaum itu sebagai kaedah yang sudah tidak dapat dielakkan lagi. Ugutan merupakan kaedah yang terakhir untuk mengekalkan kuasa mentadbir negara.

Dengan ugutan ini ianya secara otomatiknya melenyapkan persepsi yang cuba ditanam oleh BN yang DAP itu sebuah parti yang rasis kerana yang rasis sebenarnya ialah BN yang diketuai oleh UMNO.

Pandangan ini tidak akan saya tulis jika saya tidak yakin tentang kebenaran situasi yang telah saya gambarkan tadi. Pandangan yang saya utarakan ini sebenarnya juga adalah pandangan setengah pemimpin UMNO walaupun di dalam terang mereka mempertahankan UMNO itu.

Mungkin pandangan saya ini merupakan pandangan yang salah tetapi dalam keadaan apa sekali pun saya tetap mempertahankan ramalan saya ini akan menjadi kenyataan jika kita tidak melakukan ‘soul searching’ yang intensif.

The Ballot Box: The Ultimate Arbiter in a Democracy

April 30, 2011

 … Come, my friends,
     ‘Tis not too late to seek a newer world.
     Push off, and sitting well in order smite
     The sounding furrows; for my purpose holds
     To sail beyond the sunset, and the baths
     Of all the western stars, until I die.
It may be that the gulfs will wash us down;
     It may be we shall touch the Happy Isles,
     And see the great Achilles, whom we knew. (56–64)

Alfred Lord Tennyson, Ulyssess

The Ballot Box: The Ultimate Arbiter in a Democracy

by Terence Netto @

COMMENT Because the ballot box is the ultimate arbiter of distempers in a democracy, Malaysian voters must be anticipating the next general election – the 13th in their history as an independent country – with unusual keenness.

The fact that the number 13 is freighted with an ominous significance because it connotes a tragic chapter in Malaysian history – the May 13 riots of 1969 – renders added frisson to the anticipation.

The thunderheads that have boiled up on the political horizon to set voters on edge present an idiosyncratic mix of issues of personal sexual morality and ones of grave national import.

Just now an issue concerning the sexual morals of a contender for the prime ministerial position, Anwar Ibrahim, has taken centre stage, to the exasperation of legions of his supporters, not because they do not think that it matters, but because they view the rules for adjudicating it as hopelessly rigged against him.

Also, it is of little help to their serenity that they see at least one of his accusers, in the case of the video allegedly showing him in a transaction with a sex worker, as tainted with same brush that is now being used to blacken Anwar. Few things are as annoying as the pot calling the kettle black. Likewise, few things can be more exasperating that attempts to infer an aspirant’s moral credentials to govern from his or her private sexual morals.

One does not have to subscribe to Plato’s dualism of the mind and body to hold that it’s best to keep the spheres of public and private morality separate, especially private sexual morality. But because to the majority of Malaysians religion is a public matter, these spheres cannot be held to be separate.

No precedent in modern history

No politician has done more in the last four decades in Malaysia to make religion a public matter than Anwar Ibrahim. So there is a rough kind of poetic justice to the travails he has now to endure.

It is hard to find a precedent in modern history for the very public and humiliating trials by innuendo and insinuation he and his family have had to endure – in Sodomy I, Sodomy II and now in the sex video controversy – over the last 13 years.

Perhaps the closest comparison one could find would be the hounding of the American civil rights Martin Luther King Jr by FBI director J Edgar Hoover in the 1960s. Hoover kept up a steady stream of pressure on King and his wife by circulating aural evidence of the civil rights leader’s sexual misdemeanors. But, in the main, that pressure was applied away from the public gaze. Consequently, the psychic hell that King and Loretta had to endure was private.

In contrast, Anwar and family have had to endure very public tribulation which the ordinarily decent are loath to justify. The fact that elementary standards of due process have been denied him in this odyssey of public humiliation adds to the repugnance felt by the decent over his and his family’s treatment.

That is why at this juncture the 13th general election is being awaited with mustard-keen anticipation.There are issues of grave public moment that should compete for the public attention’s but right now the manufactured sensation of Anwar’s private sexual morality has taken centre stage.

It makes you want to believe in the truth of the concept of the wound and the bow, the literary principle that the psychic wounds one suffers on the way up in life become the bow that launches the effort at grand rectification.

One hopes that would be true about Anwar. He has had to endure much; would that eventual vindication and rectification be proportionate to his travails.

Singapore Elections 2011: The Key Issues and New Faces

April 28, 2011

Singapore Elections 2011: The Key Issues and New Faces

Singapore’s ruling People’s Action Party (PAP) faces its strongest challenge since independence when its citizens go to the polls on May 7.

Although Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong’s PAP should easily retain its large majority, his party will be contesting 82 of the country’s 87 parliamentary seats, up from just 47 of the 84 seats in the last parliament.

Candidates representing the city-state’s opposition parties are also of a higher caliber and include a top corporate lawyer and several former high-ranking civil servants.

Singapore’s two long-serving opposition members are not defending their single-member seats and will lead teams to contest multi-seat group representation constituencies (GRCs) that the PAP has never lost.

At the last general election in 2006, the PAP clinched 82 of 84 elected seats with 66.6 percent of the vote. The ruling party got 75.3 percent of the vote in the previous elections in 2001 when opposition parties contested fewer than half the seats.

Key Risks

Should the PAP, which has ruled Singapore since independence in 1965, see a substantial dilution in the share of votes, it could lead to:

– A government that is more susceptible to populist pressure

– Singapore being less welcoming of foreign workers

– Further efforts to cool down property prices, especially in the mass market

Key Issues

– Immigration. Foreigners now make up 36 percent of Singapore’s population of 5.1 million, up from around 20 percent of 4 million people a decade earlier, which is becoming an irritant to many citizens.

They have complained about competition for jobs and housing, the dilution of Singapore’s national identity, as well as increasingly crowded roads, buses and trains.

For the many foreigners who work in Singapore, and firms that use the city-state as their regional base, the key issue is whether the government will continue the open immigration policies that makes it easy for foreigners to work in Singapore if there is a sharp drop in support for the PAP.

– Inflation and inequality. Relatively high inflation and income inequality could also affect support for the PAP.

Despite stellar economic growth in one of Asia’s wealthiest nations, many poorer Singaporeans feel they have fallen through the cracks as government policy is focused on expansion and attracting foreign investment.

GDP grew 14.5 percent last year, but government data shows the city-state’s median household income rose a much smaller 3.1 percent, or 0.3 percent after adjusting for inflation, to S5,000 ($4,022) a month last year.

Singapore’s bottom 10 percent of households with at least one working member had an average monthly income of S$1,400 last year, versus S$23,684 for households in the top 10 percent, according to the Department of Statistics.

Prices are also a worry. Singapore’s inflation rate is currently running above 5 percent and the central bank recently said consumer price index (CPI) inflation will likely come in at the upper end of a 3-4 percent range this year.

– Housing. Many young Singaporeans feel they can no longer afford homes, unlike their parents’ generation, and they feel that government’s immigration policies are partly to blame.

Singapore has one of the world’s highest rates of home ownership at 87 percent, thanks to a home-building programme to provide cheap housing for its citizens that began in the late 1960s. But the government’s Housing and Development Board (HDB) is building fewer flats and charging more for them.

The Workers’ Party, the strongest of Singapore’s small opposition parties, said in its manifesto it would price new government-built HDB apartments at a level such that buyers will take 20 years to pay off their mortgage instead of 30.


– The spread of new media tools such as Facebook and YouTube has allowed opposition parties to bypass the state-controlled media to recruit members and reach out directly to the electorate.

– Top government officials such as former army chief Major-General Chan Chun Sing and former central bank chief Heng Swee Keat have joined the PAP for the election.

– Newcomers in the opposition ranks include top corporate lawyer Chen Show Mao, who studied at Harvard, Oxford and Stanford, and Kenneth Jeyaretnam, a hedge fund manager with double first-class honours from Cambridge. Chen last year advised Agricultural Bank of China on its $22 billion initial public offering — then the world’s largest.

What’s at stake?

– Singapore has been divided into 15 group representation constituencies (GRCs) of four to six seats each, and 12 single member constituencies (SMCs), for a total of 87 Parliamentary seats.

– The party winning the most votes in a multi-member constituency takes all its seats. The PAP has never lost a GRC since the system was introduced in the 1988 election.

– If parties opposed to the ruling PAP win fewer than 9 seats, losing candidates with the largest percentage of votes will be appointed non-constituency MPs (NCMPs), who can speak in parliament but cannot vote on finance or constitutional bills.

– Political parties can start campaigning with immediate effect now that nominations are over. There is a one-day “cooling off” period on May 6 when campaigning is not allowed, and full results of the May 7 election will be available early on May 8.

Reporting by Kevin Lim and Walter Sim; Ed