Singapore: Low Risk For Not Voting


Partyforumseasia: Like in a few countries in Southeast Asia and many more world wide, voting in Singapore’s parliamentary elections is compulsory. As the Elections Department (ELD) announced last week, 155,180 voters did not vote in the recent election. That is 6.3 % of the eligible voters, whereas the voter turnout was 93.7 % out of 2,462,926 voters, a dream turnout compared to most countries, even those with compulsory vote. But casting your vote is easy in a small city state where polling stations are normally well in walking distance from your home.
The non-voters are automatically struck from the registers, but have an easy way of being restored to the voters’ list by explaining their missed opportunity to the Election Department. Acceptable reasons are living overseas or traveling, illness or delivering a baby. Voters can do that online via http://www.eld.gov.sg.

But even if you don’t have an acceptable excuse you can still apply for being restored to the register by paying a fee of S$ 50 ( approx. US$ 36 ). It may be difficult to find out how many Singaporeans have completely dropped out because they did not apply for their restoration to the list, but the high turnout is an argument for the compulsory voting regime. For the tens of thousands of citizens living and working abroad the embassies offer local voting facilities, but only in places like London, Sidney etc. with a sizable number of eligible voters.
Regionally and internationally compulsory voting is not very common. Here is a world map from Wikipedia (Link)
Compulsory Vote Wiki

The enforcement is normally as lenient as in Singapore, though the list looks tough for countries like Egypt, Australia and Fidschi, where imprisonment is possible, and Bolivia where the non-voter risks to lose his or her identity card and closure of bank accounts. Doubts about the real enforcement  may be allowed, though.

Most countries impose a relatively small fine, but in Luxemburg it can reach up to 250 and in Turkey 130 Euros. Older voters over 70 or 75 are exempted, but all countries remove the non-voters from the registers.
In the overview Wikipedia lists 19 countries with sanctions and 13 with compulsory voting but no sanctions.
Since some countries have given up on compulsory voting one can assume that the decision depends on the expectations of the ruling parties or coalitions, whether they can count on better results with or without. Considerations about how to develop and improve democratic behavior might play a role in the debates but less so in the final decision of the parliaments.

For more details on Singapore’s political system see: Tan, Netina, Institutional Sources of Hegemonic Party Stability in Singapore, in: Sachsenröder, Wolfgang (ed.), Party Politics in Southeast Asia, Singapore 2014.
The book is available at Amazon and at Barnes & Noble also as e-book:
Book at Barnes & Noble incl E-Book

Voter Turnout in Southeast Asia


Partyforumseasia: IFES, the International Foundation for Electoral Systems, offers a broad choice of reference material. We have selected the countries in Southeast Asia for easier reading. But the world-wide comparison is helping us to avoid prima-vista conclusions. If a higher voter turnout would mean more democratic legitimation, Vietnam and Laos were twice as democratic as the United States of America. Doubts about the USA’s political system are allowed and widespread among Americans, but there is no comparison here with the remaining Communist regimes in Southeast Asia.

As IFES points out at the end of a recent article on“Global Measures of Electoral Credibility: Voter Participation and Political Finance”By Ayesha Chugh and Hani Zainulbhai,September 17, 2014 – IFES ( Link ), “While variables like voter turnout and political finance are useful, electoral credibility is ultimately a nuanced concept that requires consideration of the full context of an election.”

Indeed, but it is certainly useful to compare the different systems in the region in light of the voter turnout in the last years. The following charts are due to IFES on www.ifes.int/vt/

The regional overview (Last parliamentary elections) Compiled by Partyforumseasia
vt WS

and world-wide:
Voter turnout

Detailed voter turnout statistics for the ten countries of Southeast Asia (Brunei has no parties) see the following page in the Partyforumseasia database:
Voter Turnout in Southeast Asia