Archive for the 'politics and government' Category

Clear thinking about NCMPs

pic_201602_05Our parliament, never admirable, has lately been filled with much quacking. The issue that has gotten quite a few opposition members mired is that of Non-Constituency Members of Parliament (NCMP). The government proposes to increase the minimum number of opposition members to twelve from the present nine. This will mean that if opposition parties fail to win 12 seats outright (through our first-past-the-post system), the shortfall will be made up of NCMPs.

The Workers’ Party seems to be taking a mealy-mouthed stance over this. There may be a fear that when voters know there will be at least 12 opposition members, they will be less inclined to vote strongly for an opposition party. Continue reading ‘Clear thinking about NCMPs’

Bad news: wages up, unemployment low

There were two noteworthy nuggets of information in Straits Times’ front page story about employment numbers in 2015 (Friday, 29 January 2016). This essay will discuss the nugget from this statement:  “Just 100 more citizens and permanent residents were in jobs at the end of last year compared with the year before, although unemployment remained low, said the Ministry of Manpower (MOM) yesterday.” My main aim in this essay is to examine the unquestioned assumptions that too often skew our appreciation of the facts.

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Continue reading ‘Bad news: wages up, unemployment low’

Pay back our love

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The case of Brandon Smith raises a slew of very uncomfortable questions for Singapore, questions I have yet to see anyone ask. So far, much of the discussion I have seen on my Facebook feeds have centred on what the law says and the rights and wrongs of the young man’s refusal to return to do National Service. (Admittedly, what I get on my Facebook feeds is algorithmically skewed. There may indeed be deeper discussion somewhere, but I’m not seeing any.)

The ugliest parts of what I have seen are comments that adopt an anti-foreigner tone. These comments are particularly unhelpful, because they distract from key issues that this case points to. I hope to draw these out in this essay. Continue reading ‘Pay back our love’

General election 2015: Looking back, looking forward, part 3

Maruah held a post-election forum on 19 Sept 2015.

Maruah held a post-election forum on 19 Sept 2015.

In this last part of a three-part essay, I will touch on three questions that surfaced during Maruah’s post-election forum, held 19 September 2015. They were:

  • Does social media have any impact on voting intentions?
  • Do rallies make any difference to voting?
  • Is confrontational politics the way forward from now on?

Continue reading ‘General election 2015: Looking back, looking forward, part 3’

General election 2015: Looking back, looking forward, part 2

Maruah held a post-election forum on 19 Sept 2015.

Maruah held a post-election forum on 19 Sept 2015.

This post is the second in the series that attempts to make sense of the results of the 2015 general election and distil ideas about what opposition parties can do. In Part One, two themes were discussed: the ‘apathetic’ voter and whether parties need ideological platforms.

In this Part Two, we take on two more themes: Naturalised citizens and middle-ground voters. Continue reading ‘General election 2015: Looking back, looking forward, part 2’

General election 2015: Looking back, looking forward, part 1

Maruah held a post-election forum on 19 Sept 2015.

Maruah held a post-election forum on 19 Sept 2015.

Maruah’s post-election forum, 19 September 2015, was very well attended. They ran out of chairs and people had to sit on the floor.

I was one of the six speakers, but the best part for me was the way that comments made by other speakers and members of the audience generated further thoughts which will take three posts for me to cover. These thoughts can be grouped into seven themes. In this post (Part One of three), I will discuss the first two: The ‘apathetic’ voter, and the debate about whether parties need ideological platforms. Continue reading ‘General election 2015: Looking back, looking forward, part 1’

The survivors’ league: Singapore joins Gabon and Tanzania

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Guest essay by Kay Mohlman

I was moved to write in the wake of your analysis, which is pessimistically compelling. However, under the conditions of uncertainty that come with elections in far-less-than-democratic conditions, it’s impossible to accurately know what lies behind voter swings except that each of the past two elections have been exercises in uncertainty: an uncertain (surprising) outcome in 2011 and uncertain (frustrated) predictions in 2015.

Fine-grained analyses of the 2011 and 2015 general elections can be made, but I think it’s important as well to look at Singapore in some comparative perspective. Doing so may help us realise what, exactly, opposition parties and those who vote for them are up against when measured side by side with the many other countries that also hold far-less-than-democratic elections around the world. And fortunately, Andreas Schedler has done just that in his “Politics of Uncertainty: Sustaining and Subverting Electoral Authoritarianism” (Oxford 2013). Continue reading ‘The survivors’ league: Singapore joins Gabon and Tanzania’

Singapore Solidarity: Constitutional reform to pave way for a better democracy

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Guest essay by Dasan

Singaporeans want a democracy. This is clearly seen in the enthusiasm that voters of Tanjong Pagar exhibited when they cast their votes. The large rally crowds are also a testament to this. But the results just don’t tally. Continue reading ‘Singapore Solidarity: Constitutional reform to pave way for a better democracy’

Musings from the general election campaign: race, language and religion

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At one of the election rallies, I met an American who moved to Singapore only a year earlier. Of course he didn’t have the vote, but he was curious what election rallies were like. I had met him before, and so went up to him to say, hi.

He was glad to see me as he had a question he didn’t know whom to ask. “Will they ever speak in English?” was the question.

I laughed. “Why do you ask? What’s been happening since you got here?” Continue reading ‘Musings from the general election campaign: race, language and religion’

General election 2015: Two opposition parties withstood the rout better than the rest

Feeling depressed by election results? Try retail therapy

Feeling depressed by election results? Try retail therapy

I came across a Facebook post that said quality candidates don’t mean a thing. It was probably written in frustration at the dismal results by opposition parties in this 2015 general election. The Workers’ Party had fielded several candidates whose credentials wouldn’t look out of place on the People’s Action Party (PAP) slate. The Singapore Democratic Party (SDP) had Paul Tambyah, a professor of infectious diseases. Yet, neither party improved its position in this election, the argument went.

A closer analysis of the numbers would debunk this assertion. Continue reading ‘General election 2015: Two opposition parties withstood the rout better than the rest’


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