Singapore Votes, and That Means Everyone

Singapore held general elections yesterday. The neat thing about living in the Western hemisphere is that you can watch the election results roll in without having to stay up late at night. And the early results look like a big win for the incumbent People’s Action Party.

The comments from Kenneth Jeyaretnam are interesting because, well, I could not have foreseen a “huge swing” to the PAP. But I’m no Singapore expert. For background on the elections and a review of key issues issued before the polls, see Bridget Welsh at New Mandala.

One interesting thing for comparative scholars of elections under authoritarianism is the fact that voting is mandatory in Singapore. I’m not sure how common that is in electoral authoritarian regimes, but I bet it is rare. Why would such a regime do this? Why force people who have no interest in voting to the polls?

My guess is that in the Singaporean case, it works the PAP’s advantage. Think of your average unmotivated voter, one who is indifferent between the parties, or who thinks that party politics is all nonsense, or that his or her vote doesn’t matter. What happens when s/he is forced to the polls? The options are vote for the PAP, vote against it, or somehow spoil the ballot. If you are indifferent, but risk averse, you would either spoil the ballot or vote PAP. Both of those work in the PAP’s favor.

Only voters who are annoyed at the PAP for making them vote would vote against the PAP, and without any evidence whatsoever I conjecture that that bloc is pretty rare. Most people who are annoyed at the PAP for making them vote are probably annoyed at the PAP anyway, so mandating turnout does not hurt the PAP because these voters would turn out to vote against it anyway.

You can see some recognition of this kind of dynamic in Jeyaretnam’s other comments.

From Jeyaretnam’s perspective, he needs to find those apathetic unmotivated voters who end up going PAP because they have to vote, and get them motivated.

Posted in Asia, Current Affairs, Politics
On Twitter
%d bloggers like this: