POSC 213- Politics of Southeast Asia
Response Paper to Week 11’s readings
Singapore has been classified as a hybrid regime compromising of democracy and authoritarianism. This paper aims to support the author’s findings, through examples, that Singapore uses democratic institutions to sustain its hybrid regime
regime. Beyond the use of institutions, the PAP has used other methods to remain the front runner during elections which will be elaborated in this paper.
The first example, highlighted in Elvin Ong’s (2015) paper touches on the idea of ‘Meet-the-People-session’(MPS) which would make sense when used in a democratic nation since this would increase the popularity of a particular party to help it win open and fair elections, however, ‘due to the prevalence of electoral manipulation… there appears to be very little electoral incentive for legislators to engage in constituency service’ (Elvin Ong, 2015, P.362).
Despite the irony, the MPS session serves a more important purpose even within an undemocratic regime; Netina Tan’s (2013) article mentions that that the People’s Action Party strives for a big marginal electoral victory to assert its mandate to rule and weaken the opposition. This complements Elvin Ong’s (2015) justification, one of the reasons for the MPS session is to allow the ruling party to gather information about the voting populace and their grievances. This helps them gain information about the public to use for their subsequent electoral campaigns so as to gain victory by a greater margin, which is especially important now more than ever, since 2011 election reflected PAP’s worst electoral performance only receiving 60% of the popularity vote (Netina Tan,2013). Even with that being said, the PAP would likely not fear an opposition party win since they can manipulate electoral rules in parliament since the ruling party makes up ‘more than two-thirds legislative majority’ (Netina Tan, 2013, P635)
Furthermore, Singapore follows other liberal democracies by having a judiciary, legislative body and the executive branch. However, instead of these different bodies providing a check and balance effect, these institutions seem to not be entirely autonomous. The legislative body and executive branch is made up of primarily PAP members and the judiciary is bounded by the laws passed in the PAP majority parliament and these laws seem to conveniently be in the favour of ruling party members in contentious cases. When leaders Goh Chok Tong and Lee Kuan Yew were involved in libel suits, their adversaries lost to both the PAP leaders (Dayley and Neher, P307). Some defamation lawsuits include famous opposition members such as of J.B Jeyaratnam and Chee Soon Juan, that led to them having to declare bankruptcy (Sim, 2011; J. Chin, 2016)
This taints the true essence of these institutions and their purpose within a state, Singapore’s justice system seems to be incorruptible and yet it stirs up curiosity as to why the judiciary...