Are Singaporean Voters Fairly Represented in Parliament?

Hmmm its worth a thought. This is the silent big question that never gets a fair hearing in every of our elections. The Straits times – the most common source of news – automatically transforms itself to become an unabashed sycophantic party publication during election time, giving fully positive coverage to the ruling party candidates. Sort of like a PAP sleeper cell that is fully activated during election time. Well so much for journalistic integrity and impartiality. I don’t blame them either… just see it’s board’s constitution and their connections – you’ll see why.

Anyway the reason why I am writing about this crap at all – even for a regular, politically apathetic Singaporean like me – is the redrawing of electoral boundaries and updating of voter registration is indeed an eyebrow raising event. Not least because the boundaries were re-drawn – but the timing of which. It normally happens juuuuuust before parliament is dissolved. But election is at least two years away.

 

Normally boundaries are finalized just when the opposition had worked the ground for the past 5 years and had come within firing range when the government shifts the goal posts.

 

This is called gerrymandering i.e.  to deliberately divide the electoral geography to the disadvantage of the opposition. And without saying anything about the political independence of the Elections department, this is indeed surprising.

 

Well no one expects the government (read : the ruling party) to serve the interests of the opposition, but the government by all account, owes a moral duty to Singaporeans to ensure the fairness of the elections.

My guess for this early electoral boundary meddling is that the ruling party is trying to double their political points. For a government that rules by fear, this looming economic depression is a godsend. It is very hard to promise economic success in an economic boom. But this government knows that the people here, in the worst of times would never, want the opposition running their economy. 

Judging by their dismal 2006 results, a by-election would most likely give a boost to their political mandate. In other words it’s point scoring time to further solidify the PAP’s hold on power for another 5 years. So they get a solid mandate plus they get to boast that they are being fair by giving time to the opposition work the ground via early notice of electoral boundaries.

My guess is parliament should be dissolved by the time the US economic depression hits home and the PM will then use it as an excuse to call for snap elections. They have the economic figures and they will most certainly use it to their advantage and point out the opposition’s incompetence in economic administration.

I think there should be some specific rules as to when by-elections can be held (sigh).

But coming back to the issue of re-drawing electoral boundaries by the elections departments is nearly not as much as question of how and when as it is why. It beats the crap out of me. I wish the government would be transparent with it’s motives about the need to gerrymander. While the government maintains that it is the elections department’s prerogative a simple check will show that the elections department comes under the home affairs minister who is a PAP MP and is also likely to stand for elections. So the elections departments neutrality is suspect. This is indeed a dangerous thing because impartiality of the elections administrator is the foundation of establishing fairness in any democratic electoral process. With that being suspect, the results are suspect.

 

What effect does gerrymandering have on the election results? It spreads the distribution of opposition votes so that the Mr. Gerrymander could maximize his seats in parliament.

 

Just look at the figures of the last election results. There were 84 parliamentary seats in the offing. The PAP garnered 82 of those of the votes with 37 walkovers. The opposition won 2 seats. Is this exciting or what. My feeling is “or what”. This is 97.6% of the seats won by the ruling party. This is a figure that has the power to pass a whole new constitution through parliament in just one night with not so much of a whimper against it.

 

But the election result tells a different story. The PAP only garnered 66.6% of the 1,123,273 valid votes (748,130 votes) in 2006. The opposition garnered the remainder of the 33.4% (375,143 votes) with only two elected opposition MPs in parliament. The parties of the elected MPs themselves have 29.3% (329,206 votes) of the votes. Achieving such a figure for an opposition in an electorate that vote in fear is no mean feat.

 

But what this gross disparity in the opposition’s parliamentary seat percentage (2.4%) and their vote percentage (33.4%) tells us is that large sections (one-thirds!) of our voting population have been alienated via cunning electoral and administrative artifices that resulted in them being grossly under-represented in parliament.

 

This is a significant number because it shows that there is a sizable number among our voting population that believes in giving a credible resistance in parliament to the ruling party. These people don’t want CPF withdrawal age or withdrawal amount changes everytime the GIC or Temasek Holdings makes billion dollar losses elsewhere. These people don’t want fly by night bills tabled by ministers that ease through a parliament with sleeping career MPs who don’t give a hoot to the parliamentary process. They just wake up and vote with the whip.

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