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Singapore's levers of power

Rodan, G. (2006) Singapore's levers of power. The Wall Street Journal Asia, 10-12 February . p. 13.


That doesn't mean there aren't issues which can be expected to come to the fore as Lee Hsien Loong leads his first election campaign since becoming premier in 2004, with polls possibly due as early as March. Or that the PAP isn't feeling a little more nervous than Singapore's recent strong economic performance might suggest.

Another issue that may provide ground for the opposition to exploit is the PAP's 2005 policy about face in introducing casinos to Singapore. This has generated a lot of debate, with the government permitting uncharacteristic political space for critical comment through the local media and the activities of non-governmental organizations. Although not a cause celebre of the PAP's liberal critics, casinos are a sensitive issue among traditional, socially conservative supporters of the PAP -- the HDB heartlanders also feeling the pinch of economic restructuring. The government has been especially keen to avoid alienating Singapore's ethnic Malays, who make up 14% of the population, many of whom oppose the casinos on Islamic religious grounds. However, whether the consultative process adopted has substantially appeased dissenting views remains to be seen.

Finally, there is a political economy dimension to electoral intimidation. In the last two elections, for example, Singaporeans have been warned that electorates returning opposition candidates face discrimination in the upgrading of Housing Development Board flats. This dependence on the state renders Singaporeans vulnerable to political threats. Then Prime Minister Goh Chok Tong warned before the 1997 poll that constituencies electing opposition candidates would be the last in line for such upgrading. "Then in 20, 30 years' time, the whole of Singapore will be bustling away and your estate, through your own choice, will be left behind. They become slums. That's my message," Mr. Goh was quoted as saying during the campaign. In 2001, Mr. Goh supplemented this by promising the upgrading of flats in those individual precincts within the opposition constituency of Potong Pasir where more than half of the voters supported the PAP.

Item Type: Non-refereed Article
Murdoch Affiliation(s): Asia Research Centre
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