Regional Outlook, Global Perspective


The ASEAN Post-Oct 3

Malaysia saw a change of government for the first time in May this year after the 14th general election. Soon after that election, in June, Malaysia’s Prime Minister Mahathir Mohamad remarked that the election results might have an impact on Singapore, where the ruling People’s Action Party (PAP) has been in power since 1959. Seven opposition parties in Singapore held a meeting late last month to discuss banding together to contest the next general election due by 2021 – a move reminiscent of the time when     Malaysia’s opposition parties formed the Alliance of Hope (Pakatan Harapan) coalition which ultimately won the general election there.

The seven parties in question are the Singapore Democratic Party, National Solidarity Party, People’s Power Party, Democratic Progressive Party, Reform Party, Singaporeans First, and as-yet-unregistered People’s Voice.

It is understandable that developments in Malaysia would excite opposition parties in neighboring Singapore as both countries once shared a similar political scenario whereby the ruling party has been in power since independence. But do the similarities end there?

The opposition’s strength

It is important to note that of the seven parties engaged in talks for creating a coalition, the Workers’ Party and Singapore People’s Party – two of the most successful opposition parties in Singapore – are not involved.

While the Worker’s Party is the strongest opposition party in Singapore, “strong” is a relative term here. The Worker’s Party’s best performance was in the previous two general elections of 2011 and 2015, where it won a mere six Parliament seats in total.

In comparison, Malaysia’s People’s Coalition (Pakatan Rakyat), the previous incarnation of the Alliance of Hope, managed to deny The National Front (Barisan Nasional) its two-third majority for the first time in 2008, winning 82 out of the 222 seats contested. In 2013, despite losing the election again, the People’s Coalition managed to win the popular vote and 89 out of 222 seats.

The People’s Coalition was made up of the same component parties as the Alliance of Hope with the exclusion of the Malaysian United Indigenous Party (Parti Pribumi Bersatu Malaysia) and the National Trust Party (Parti Amanah Negara) and instead, included the Malaysian Islamic Party (Parti SeIslam Malaysia or PAS).

Better conditions

Aside from the opposition’s relative weakness compared to the PAP, the socio-economic conditions in Singapore are also much better than they are in Malaysia, providing the opposition with very little to go on.

According to the Allianz Global Wealth Report 2017, Singapore is ranked the seventh richest country in the world and third richest in Asia. When looking at gross per capita financial assets, Singapore’s average of US$145,275 per person, moves the nation up to the number one position in Asia.

The report noted that Singapore’s strong performance could be attributed to debt growth remaining low in the last year, allowing debt ratios (debt as a percentage of total gross domestic product) to continue on its decline.

Singapore also ranks as a very clean country according to Transparency International’s 2017 Corruption index which puts it at sixth place out of 180 countries and gives it a high score of 84 out of 100. In comparison, Cambodia scored lowest at 21 points, Myanmar came in next at 28 points, Lao PDR was at 30 points, Vietnam at 33 points, the Philippines and Thailand scored 35, Indonesia scored 37 and Malaysia scored 49. Even Brunei, which scored second highest in ASEAN at 58 points, is left trailing Singapore.

As the icing on the cake, Singapore is also considered the most technologically advanced country in the region which ensures that it is safely on the path to embrace Industry 4.0.

All this points to the fact that Singapore’s opposition does not have much to build on in its quest to wrest power from the ruling government. Singaporeans themselves do not have anything major to complain about, at least for the time being. This makes the opposition’s chances of performing well in the next election highly unlikely. A coalition – especially one without Singapore’s “strongest” parties involved – is not likely to change this.


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