Singapore general election: Democracy rising


It’s just two more days to polling day in Singapore – and the democratic awakening sweeping across the world has not left the island republic untouched.

“Singapore is a country – not a company,” says private teacher Michelle Lee, speaking at an opposition SDP rally

An opposition rally in Singapore

One political observer in Singapore told me he expects the opposition to pick up 10 to 12 seats in the 87-seat legislature. “(It is) difficult to predict though…..could be more. People I spoke to (seem) determined to cast their votes to the Opposition.” In the 2006 general election, the opposition won just two out of the 84 seats up for grabs. Under the circumstances, even if the opposition captures six to eight seats, it would be a significant advance.

Like elsewhere, part of this newfound democratic consciousness may be attributed to the stranglehold over the mainstream media being broken by wider public access to alternative views on the Internet. There’s solidarity in numbers too – and that has helped to cast off some of the fear of earlier years.

What’s interesting is that quite a number of the major election issues in Singapore are similar to ours – although of course the obvious corruption and the racial and religious rhetoric over there is much less.
The core issues seem depressingly familiar: lack of freedom of expression, the rising cost of living, an influx of migrant workers, the absence of a minimum wage, a clamour for affordable health care and housing, traffic congestion and crowded public transport, long hours at work, retired workers having to work into their twilight years.

Apart from this, many seem resentful over the high ministerial pay packets. Like in Malaysia, income inequality in Singapore is worrying: the island republic’s Gini coefficient was 0.425 for 2000-2010, the second highest of 42 nations with “very high human development”.

But beyond all this there seems to be realisation that human development should not be measured solely in economic terms. At the heart of it all, many Singaporeans appear tired of the focus on GDP and productivity in Corporate Singapore even as a large proportion of workers appear to be struggling.

Voters now seem to be looking at larger quality of life issues; they want to be treated with dignity and they want their democratic freedom, their basic universal rights. Surely, there must be more to life than slogging away in the service of GDP growth rates and the bottom line or being a human cog in the production line.

That’s not too dissimilar from what is happening in Malaysia, where many are waking up to hard economic realities. Many Malaysians are also burdened by the inability of wages to keep pace with the soaring cost of living. And all the while, the government bows to Corporate Malaysia with pro-business policies that promote corporate-driven GDP growth (for whom?) while dishing out corporate incentives, soft loans, and contracts for the ‘boys’.

It’s time for a more sustainable and people-centred approach to development that would put people above profits. The economy should serve the people and not the other way around.

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PAP govern Singapore like it is a multi national corporation, instead of a country. Every single decision is measured by how much profit it can generate not how best it can protect the interets of ordinary Singaporeans. It is time for change.


On the other hand, can PR be the Government of Malaysia if all the smart … go down south and we still have people like Ah Soon Khor and Gerakan K supporting UMNO Government.Will Malaysia be a better place than Sinkapore when we more resources and drinking water and land catchment than Sinkapore. Even Penang Island is limited and has to ask Kedah for help to drink water.


Singapore producing more talent from Malaysia? That’s really odd and laughable. Malaysian Chinese were the talents they got. Malaysian Chinese produced by Malaysian schools. Singapore is stealing talents from Malaysia and Indonesia. Their schools failed to churned talent fits the current economic needs. That’s why today PAP will loose many seats during the parliamentary election. Singaporean see top posts / jobs in their country went to foreigners, i.e. Malaysian Chinese.

Philip Khoo

Re salaries of Singapore’s cabinet and justifications re private sector salaries: 1. since they claim to be the best and the brightest and to be great performers — what returns does CPF provide? Last time I looked, it was something like 2.5%? Shareholders of any company with accountability would have turned out those managers if all they could manage was 2.5% returns on equity. 2. since they pay themselves the highest in the world, and that’s supposed to be for performance, then why do so many singaporeans emigrate to oecd countries whose leaders are paid much much less, hence, by… Read more »


Why not check the Singapore bank interest rates? In Australia, your superannuation (provident fund) can be even be negative!


Let me tell you truly I realized lately That I really detest the PAP It is truly a Perfectly Arrogant Party They have turned our country Into their company Everything is about money COE, COV, GST, ERP Extraordinary charges aplenty A tiny dot with 30 ministers drawing the world’s highest political salary Paid millions of dollars annually Yet they remain greedy Always chasing after GDP Making S’poreans live miserably People say, S’poreans are lucky For our country is corruption free But when it is ruled by only one party Can we really trust there is total honesty? Remember, “Power corrupts… Read more »


Woes be to those who have no corporate mindset, corporate pay checks, corporate lifestyles, corporate budgeting of private lives, corporate networking (Guanxi), corporate level credentials, corporate timetable of personal life, corporatization of family management, corporate this and that. Even the country is corporatized. Churches are corporatized. Where does it all lead to? What’s the big corporate picture? What’s left is no souls in the living, walking dead of the Incorporated Little Red Dot. Money sure makes the world go round, but it also makes the once living soulful citizens ‘dead’ as the night. Just look at the jazzed up artificial… Read more »


Singapore citizens are flocking to listen to opposition rally simply because the mainstream media is government-controlled and only reports ‘good’ news.

Mi Har

The opposition Reform Party chief Kenneth Jeyaretnam pledged to work to abolish the Newspaper and Printing Presses Act should he be elected into Parliament, in order to ensure media freedom in Singapore.

He made this promise as he lamented the local media’s lack of coverage of his party during the election, adding that this might have led the government to underestimate the party.


In part, Singapore problem is encapsulated in Lee Hsien Loong, He gave the smartest reply, albeit only he can, by admitting the govt made mistakes. BUT he also gave to me the worst reply when he answered the issue of ministerial pay. His argument was that other developed countries the leaders get paid more after they leave office is besides the point. The problem is the high pay incentive system has limited lifespan, it will fail after a while. Govt is not like a corporation where the ultimately profit and revenue is relatively quick and most dollars can be traced… Read more »


If not good pay, what is your suggestion? Follow malaysia’s model?
If the Ministers get very high pay, then they must produce what they are paid for. Proverbs – pay peanuts get 3Ms – monkey, mahlau or monyet. If the country sink with high jobless rate – do they derserve to be in the job?


Lee Dynasty will not sustain Singapore into a new century, the younger generation of Singaporean is yelling for change and more individual rights for themselves, demand accountability and transparency in their government and national affair, PAP need to meet the higher expectation of these buckle down new generation of citizenry or else butt out in this election. Time for Change has arrived in Singapore.


Sounds like they have their own bumiputra issues. Pendatang making life difficult.


The reason for high pay is to match those in the private sector which will draw away talented people. Otherwise we have clowns Ministers and circus ring like Malaysia where CMs and Ministers are having free lunches like PKFZ and big bungalows and carrying cash when travelling overseas.

There are many Malaysians prefer to work over the seas and coming back every evening creaming off Singapore sucess. Should they be stopped and allowed the locals to have more crumbs?

Andrew I

Funny. I spoke to a Singaporean just last last night who says he’s determined to be back to vote. He said that ministerial pay is ridiculously high and the general population is struggling with incomes a minister could earn in a couple of hours.

With all the foreign talent creaming off Singapore’s success and living the high life, there isn’t much left for the locals.

Andrew I

Anil…would you do “live” in Singapore like in Malaysia for every election?

kokbent I’ll shamelessly produce what I’d written over the sg elections, I’d been in Singapore for nearly 8 years and this election is definitely a “political awakening” for the usually politically quiet Singaporean. Aljunied GRC, a constituency consisting of a team of 5 MP, is the frontline battleground over this election cycle. Opposition the Workers Party is aiming for a 7% swing away from PAP to take over this seat, which PAP won with only 56% popular vote during 2006 election. There is no obvious sign of any other falling Group Representation Constituency (GRC), but Singaporean is quite hard… Read more »