[LIFE] Voting in Singapore

I have been slacking on writing blog posts and updates lately – mostly because there hasn’t been all that much to write about! Singapore has been slowly opening back up again – reopening Phase 1 meant schools and essential services reopened; Phase 2 meant restaurants, retail and less essential services reopened and gatherings were allowed in groups of five. It has been great to get a little freedom back and see friends again (but I’m still working from home).

The other interesting thing that has happened in the past few weeks is that Singapore held an election. As a non-citizen, I did not get to vote, but as a resident, I was still interested in following along with the process!

A few interesting observations about the Singapore elections (from my perspective as a Canadian):

  1. You vote for just one representative (person or group): Singapore is a city-state (if you write a letter to me, Singapore is the city, the province/state and the country). In Canadian terms, it’s like having just one person to be your city councillor (municipal representative), Member of Provincial Parliament (provincial reprecentative) and Member of Parliment (federal representative). I am not sure if anyone has every studied this – but there must be efficiency gains by collapsing the three branches and having them work in tandem.

    *Some constituencies in Singapore are Single Member Constituencies (you vote for one person) and others are Group Representation Constituencies (you vote for a group of representatives)

  2. You must vote: Voting is mandatory in Singapore. The government tracks whether you vote (not who you vote for). If you don’t vote, you lose the right to vote in all future elections as well as the ability to run for office (some exceptions allowed). In return, the goverment makes it as easy as possible to vote – it’s a national holiday (mandatory hours off for those who are working), no registration required (you vote with your regular ID). Combined, it’s a very effective strategy – turnout in the most recent election was 96%.

  3. There aren’t that many choices: While there are 11 parties in Singapore, just two have seats in Parliament. The ruling party (People’s Action Party) holds 83 seats and the opposition (Worker’s Party) holds 10. The People’s Action Party has been the ruling party since 1959 (formed by Singapore’s first Prime Minister / “founding father” Lee Kuan Yew, and now helmed by his son Lee Hsien Loong). However, the PAP’s hold has been slipping (winning 61% of the popular vote, down from 70% in 2015) and the Worker’s Party seeing increased support (most number of seats won, being recognized as the official opposition). Politics geeks like me can read more about this shift here.

  4. It was a COVID election: No rallies or gatherings allowed, hand sanitzer and disposable gloves at all polling stations, dedicated voting hours to spread out voters… it was interesting to witness. There wasn’t an impact on turnout (see point 2) and still representation from opposition parties (initial fears that rules against rallies would hurt oppositions more than the ruling party).

Anyways, I hope you found this mildly interesting (let me know if yes! or no! or anything else you want to hear about! I wish I could write about more fun travel!). For those who made it this far, I will reward you with a few more photos. Sending my love!

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