Is Election Fair in Singapore?

Playing Fair?

“As history has shown, an opposition GRC team that is disproportionately strong relative to other opposition GRC teams would inevitably draw unwanted attention. The PAP big guns would throw everything, including the kitchen sinks, at it. “ – Political analyst Derek da Cunda expressed doubt any opposition party would put all its top guns into a single team as it would draw heavy firepower from the PAP. (The Straits Times, Apr 5 2011)
“I don’t think the Government should keep changing (boundaries) like this” – A resident in Hougang Mr Lee Keng Gee bewildered about the change in his constituency which has seen its fair share of electoral yo-yoing. The area was part of the now-defunct Cheng San GRC and then Aljunied GRC and now Ang Mo Kio GRC. (The Sunday Times, Mar 6 2011)
“(PAP) As a incumbent, it has other advantages during election time. It decides the timing of the polls; is able to give out hongbao (cash) from fiscal surpluses like the Grow and Share package close to the elections; and can make or change the GRCs and the Cooling-off Day. It can also announce programmes to improve constituents’ estates close to election time. In additon, the PAP has build up strong instituion links, such as its “symbiotic ties” with the unions. As the government of the day, it controls grassroots organisations under the Peopl’s Association” – Peh Shing Huei explaining why the expectation on the ruling party is higher than the opposition parties as the playing field is not level. (The Straits Times, Apr 23 2011)
“A longstanding bugbear is that the electoral process is skewed in favour of the ruling People’s Action Party (PAP). This includes the boundaries review process where the skimpy details on how and why electoral boundaries are redrawn only give rise to accusations of gerrymandering. Should we also move to fixed election dates, as is the case in some other countries? Again, the status quo gives rise to criticism that the PM’s ability to call for elections gives the PAP an unfair edge. “ – Eugene KB Tan, Assistant Professor SMU(TODAY May 23, 2011)
“The upgrading incentive, in its various guises ranging from being an explicit electoral threat to carrot to a subtle promise of change, has not worked at all. Instead, it offends the sense of fairness and equity, and this has worked to the detriment of the PAP. Similarly, there is also the need to rethink the current policy of not appointing Opposition MPs as the advisers to the grassroots organisations (GROs) of their constituencies.The justifications proffered by the People’s Association are unpersuasive, and undermine the good work done by the GROs.” - Eugene KB Tan, Assistant Professor SMU (TODAY May 23, 2011)
The potential lost of a GRC will bring disasterous consequences to the PAP, thus time and again when PAP sensed that they might lose a GRC, big guns from PAP would go ‘full guns blazing’ to reinforce their PAP colleagues by targetting one or two weakest links in the opposition party’s GRC, often with vigorous (and some say vicious) attacks leading upto the election. Just look at Francis Seow in the Eunos GRC (1988), Chee Soon Juan in Marine Parade GRC (1992 and 2001), Tang Liang Hong (1997) in the Cheng San GRC and James Gomez in the Aljunied GRC (2006). It is highly likely that Chen Show Mou of the WP and Vincent Wijeysingha will likely be the target in the 2011 election. If you think that joining opposition in Singapore is easy and natural like a walk in the park or switching a job, read the emotional outburst of WP’s candidate Watson Chong on the family’s fear of his joining opposition party as if that he is doomed to drag the family down with him. Such is the fear that an opposition candidate and their family face due to past cases of bankruptcy lawsuits filed by the various PAP leaders.
Let’s hope the PAP plays fair this time.
Update GE2011: The PAP’s minister Ng Eng Hen has launched the first salvo at Chen Show Mou by questioning if the latter can identify with the aspirations of Singaporeans having live in overseas for 40 years, nevermind his illustrious academic achievement and has nothing to gain being on an opposition ticket. The irony is: People on the ground are saying that PAP has lost touched with the ground (despite these MP politicians are grounded here all their lives)! In another instance,Minister Balakrishnan had said there is a YouTube video online which raises questions about the SDP candidate Vincent Wijeysingha which the SDP is trying to suppress. But the party says it is not aware of such a video. The likely Youtube video can be found here. As one comment on the video posted: “(the clip was) uploaded by JohnTan88888 on 14 Apr 2011……Balakrishnan made the statement this saturday so i wonder how the poster’s description can be so accurate when it was posted even before Balakrishnan made the statement.” Sounds fishy? you bet. Read more at PAP’s Dr Vivian Balakrishnan resorting to ‘gutter politics’ and PAP’s statement on Wijeysingha disappointing . The latest incident is Senior Minister Goh Chok Tong resorted to gutter politics by saying Tan Gee Say is not of Perm Sect calibre (The Straits Times 01 May 2011) despite earlier words that he would not comment on other candidates outside his own constituency. He also went against his own words to have a “clean fight” and avoid Personal attacks (and rude language) during this election. Another minister Mrs. Lim Hwee Hua allegedly accused Hougang’s messy account without finding out the facts also prompted a strong rebuke from Opposition MP Low Thia Kiang.

 

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Article 1: There is some gerrymandering: WP

However, boundaries report makes identifying areas to contest clearer: Opposition party chairman Sylvia Lim

The release of the Electoral Boundaries Review Committee report took the Workers’ Party (WP) by surprise. WP chairman Sylvia Lim told MediaCorp last night that the party was still studying the report.

“Personally, I wasn’t expecting it today. I thought it would be sometime in March. But then it doesn’t matter because we’ll still have to respond to it,” she said.

Ms Lim did not mince her words about the report and how it affected the WP. “What struck us, at first glance, is that we believe there is some gerrymandering involved in favour of the ruling party.

“If you look at Aljunied GRC, for example, we note very quickly there have been nine precincts given out of Aljunied GRC. Seven to Ang Mo Kio GRC and two to Punggol-Pasir Ris.

“And particularly these precincts are actually very close to Hougang SMC (Single Member Constituency), where we know there is significant WP support.”

She said in their place, six precincts, carved out from Marine Parade, had been given to Aljunied GRC.  [editor’s note: as one forumer pointed out: the 6 new ones from Marine Parade are voters from landed property, condos or expensive HDB flats which presumbly are rich and successful and highly likely supporters of the ruling party]

In the last General Election in 2006, Ms Lim led a WP team against a People’s Action Party team anchored by Foreign Minister George Yeo. Her team won 43.9 per cent of the vote, the best showing by an opposition team in the polls.

Ms Lim said: “The total number of electors, there’s not much difference under the new Aljunied GRC compared to the previous Aljunied GRC, so why is there a need for a change?”

WP vice-chairman Mohd Rahizan Yaacob, who was part of the WP team which contested in Aljunied GRC in the 2006 elections, said the party would have to look ahead and plan for the elections.

Ms Lim added: “As far as the new boundaries are concerned, whether it’s Aljunied or the other areas WP is working on, we would still need to work on the new areas that have been given over to the constituencies that we’re hoping to contest. So there’s new work to be done.”

She said they would like to focus on the areas they were more familiar with.

And they would be interested in Aljunied and East Coast GRCs, as well as Hougang and Joo Chiat SMCs.

Ms Lim added they were also keen on Nee Soon GRC, Punggol East and Sengkang West.

Still, the release of the report has made things clearer.

She said: “Now, at least we know which are the definite areas. And once we work out exactly which constituencies we’ll want to contest in, then our ground work will be much more focused.”

She also expected a meeting among the opposition parties, including WP, to sort out the constituencies where they planned to contest.

Article 2: The Hot Seat
The Hot Seat 1May2011See the article on The Sunday Times May 1,2011.
Questions paramount on everybody’s mind:
  • Why should such details on the support level be available to any political party especially the ruling party?
  • Does the opposition parties have the same level of access to this kind of data?

Article 3: Boundaries review panel should be neutral

Letter from Woo Weng Kah

THE Electoral Boundaries Review Committee (EBRC) Report for the coming General Election has sparked accusations from the Opposition political parties of gerrymandering to establish a political advantage for the ruling party and its incumbents.

This state of affairs will remain so long as the EBRC comes under the jurisdiction of the Prime Minister’s Office.

The perception among the Opposition is reinforced by the fact that the Prime Minister spelt out in the committee’s terms of reference, when he convened the EBRC last October, that the average size of the GRCs should shrink to no more than five members. The result is exactly five in the report. He also said there should be “at least” 12 single-member constituencies – and now we have that exact number.

This EBRC system can be improved upon. The committee, which is currently chaired by the Cabinet Secretary, should not report to any person(s) of affiliated political interests. It must be neutral in all aspects. It should comprise non-partisan Singaporeans with no political links and come under the purview of the President of Singapore, who is a neutral party.

The EBRC should be convened by the President, who should also select and appoint its members from various agencies. To incorporate accountability and transparency, the committee’s report should explain the reasons, and give facts and figures to substantiate changes made in the redrawn boundaries.

Under the Constitution, the President is entrusted with the key to Singapore’s vast reserves. Why don’t we count on him to help uphold the democratic parliamentary process of our nation as well?

Such tweaks to the EBRC system would dispel the clamour against the Government for not providing a level playing field.

 

Article 4: A welcome wind of change

Source: the Straits Times Forum  Apr 21, 2011

AS A baby boomer, I watch the unfolding political scene with joy and sanguinity. It has been long in coming, but I am sure many will agree that this inevitable political change is a friendly and healthy one.

Come May 7, the People’s Action Party (PAP) will face a formidable challenge from a more vociferous, robust and credible opposition. It is an encouraging sign and a significant turn the PAP cannot ignore.

It will be sad if the PAP views this emerging adversary negatively, as an unwelcome threat to its political dominance.

While the PAP is not expected to roll out the red carpet, it must engage the opposition and, more importantly, listen and use it as a foil to improve its political standing.

Singapore is larger than any political party. This is my beautiful home, and in my fading years, I want nothing more than respectable, humane and level-headed lawmakers at the helm to take this country to greater heights and afford my children and grandchildren a much better life than the one I have had.

The change in political climate could be the wellspring of that eventuality.

Lee Seck Kay

 

Article 5: PAP’s statement on Wijeysingha disappointing 

Letter from Li Shi-En, Lisa

Posted in Dirty Politics

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My favourite quote today

"I am afraid the cruise ship is over capacity limit, and it used to be a luxury cruise ship. The designer’s claim that it is not sinkable, the name is Titanic. There are not enough life boats, no preparation or provision for failure. Thank you Mr Goh for reminding us." - Low Thia Khiang

"Till today, I am still puzzled by why the PAP cannot fight a fair election without gerrymandering, abusing the GRC system, basically, making sure they enter into a boxing ring with an opponent who is expected to fight them with hands tied behind the back. There is a reason why bullies are not popular in schools. Why not be the school prefect?" - Alvinology

"The question to ask is what lies at the root of the discontent or the disengagement between the G and the people. I am going to stick my neck out and say that it is ministerial salaries. I consider it the root of all evil. Serious. It reduces what should be a social compact into a business contract. " - Bertha Henson