Singapore: Candidates’ election expenses made transparent

Partyforumseasia: Democracy comes at a price, campaigns are costly, and in most countries in the region, the campaign expenses of candidates are far from being disclosed to the public.The Punggol East (a suburb in the north of Singapore) by-election on 26 January 2013 made big waves because of the clear opposition win (Workers’Party’s Lee Li Lian with 54.52%) over the PAP candidate Dr. Koh Poh Koon with 43.71%.
Two months later, the Straits Times publishes today in detail the expenses of the four candidates. All of them spent much less than the regulations had allowed, i.e. S$ 3.50 per registered voter. At the end it was only a by-election, but one which has an impact on the public perception of the balance between ruling party and opposition.
Interesting: Some candidates hired helpers and assistants, and only the PAP funded its candidate’s expenses fully. The opposition candidates declared that they did not receive any donations.                                                                   Link: Straits Times, 28.3.13
Punggol East final

Singapore: Punggol East by-election results

Partyforumseasia:The opposition frontrunner Workers’ Party scored big in the Punggol East by-election on 26 January 2013. The results:
Workers’ Party:             54.5% (16,038 votes)  + 13.5%pts compared to the 2011 GE
People’s Action Party: 43.7% (12,856 votes)  – 10.8%pts compared to the 2011 GE
Reform Party:                 1.2% (353 votes)
Singapore Democratic Alliance: 0.6% (168 votes)

The Punggol East single seat constituency can be classified as Singapore heartland with predominantly lower middle and middle class population, many of them young families with children. A tight neck to neck outcome had been predicted, the victory margin of nearly 11 % pts comes as a shock for the ruling PAP, after discounting the “by-election effect” which works against the PAP and its super-majority in Parliament by not threatening the stability of the government as such, just “teaching them a lesson” or “make them work harder”.  The PAP had been caught on the wrong foot when speaker of Parliament Michael Palmer resigned and a candidate had to be found fast to confront the young female candidate of the WP who had scored a respectable 41% in 2011 already. And there is still a lot of anti-establishment resentment in heartland constituencies like Punggol as well, despite enormous progress in the suburb’s infrastructure.
Even more dramatic is the poor result of the two candidates from small opposition parties Reform Party and Singapore Democratic Alliance. They both lost their deposit of S$ 14,500 for some limelight to keep their small parties recognizable for the national public. And all suggestions that their participation might dilute the opposition vote and favor the PAP can be dismissed. What the Singapore Democratic Party (SDP) might have scored without their strategic blunder of asking the strong WP to support their candidate, and the following pullout after failing this call for opposition unity, is now futile to discuss anyway.

More interesting for discussion seems the question of what some suggest as an upcoming two party system. Are the very small parties doomed to follow the two losers in Punggol East????

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