2016 年 2016 巻 185 号 p. 185_33-185_48
The year 2015 will be remembered by Singaporeans for its grand celebration of the nation’s 50th year of independence, as well as the demise of founding Prime Minister Lee Kuan Yew. It was also the year the ruling People’s Action Party (PAP) recaptured its electoral domination in Singapore’s 12th general election,which saw the PAP receiving a popular vote of 69.9%. In the 2011 general election, it received only 60.1% of the popular vote, the lowest since the nation’s independence. This paper analyses the unexpected results of the 2015 election and considers its impact on the authoritarian political regime.
Several reasons can be attributed to the improved showing of the PAP: (1) the PAP’s adaptability in the forms of pragmatic policy shifts including policy responses to xenophobic sentiments among citizens and the integration of foreigners, and attempts to increase the healthcare budget, (2) municipal concerns in relation to the alleged mismanagement of a town council run by the Workers’ Party (the biggest opposition party which won 6 seats in the 2011 election and won the by-election in 2013), (3) the “SG50 effect”—Singapore’s year-long celebration of her 50th year of independence and the “Lee Luan Yew effect”—the mass mourning and subsequently yearning for the late Mr. Lee Kuan Yew’s memory, (4) the PAP’s better, effective and well financed use of social media, and (5) international factors such as the economic downturn in China and political instability in Thailand and Malaysia. These factors must have pushed Singaporeans to turn back to the safety of the only party they had known.
The 2015 general election shows that the PAP’s dominance and its authoritarian governance remain very much entrenched. For the foreseeable future, general elections will not be about replacing the PAP as the ruling party but more of a national referendum about the PAP’s performance. Still the PAP government has to tackle several issues it has neglected or avoided for long time. These include improving the economic and social conditions of the Malay community in Singapore and re-examining the government’s top-down manufactured ethnic identity (CMIO classification) precisely because many citizens have started to display hints of a popular nationalism and discuss how to forge their own sense of identity and nationalism. The government also needs to pay more attention to greater desire for freedom of expression while it has to find the right balance in managing the internet in recent years. It will endeavor to allow a relatively free flow of ideas while still censoring contents that it sees as a threat to the government.