1) State control over mainstream media
At times, opposition candidates or activists may be framed by the mainstream media in a certain light aligned to the government’s interest which may result in an inaccurate or poor impression of the oppositions or their candidates e.g. Han Hui Hui, Roy Ngerng, Chee Soon Juan by the readers.
PAP’s ministers do often appear on national news or talk shows all year round. The air time of the oppositions on the other hand, are only prominent in the mainstream media during the GE period. At the live TV forum on 1st September 2015 where one representative of the various political parties were invited, PAP was the only party which had 2 representatives to speak.
Mainstream media articles are usually aligned to the government’s interest and reach out to the masses and as such, also the majority of voters.
Social media and alternative online news sites do reach out to younger voters, but the older generation of Singaporeans which makes up majority of the determining votes are still largely influenced by what they read in newspapers as most are not as tech-savvy or engaged compared to the younger working adults.
The cooling off day incident where the mainstream press and a PAP politician may have unintentionally broke the rules.
2) Inculcated landscape of fear
Scared of being black-marked
Some Singaporeans have the conservative mindset – they may feel uncomfortable speaking up against the government, openly associating themselves to an opposition party or candidate, showing support, or even voting for the opposition party for fear that they might be “marked” or monitored by the government. Those with governmental jobs may also fear losing their rice bowl.
Voting is sacred
Having talked to people I meet in my daily life on politics – when I ask who they voted or are going to vote for, I get the comment from time to time that they cannot tell me because voting is sacred, or they give me the “that is a question you should never ask” look. It even applies to my parents. Personally, I do not think it is something too “sensitive” to share.
Freak election results
Some Singaporeans are afraid the government will lose their stability if there is a national swing to the opposition side. As such, they choose to vote for PAP.
3) Lack of Resources on the side of opposition parties
Lack of platform to engage the residential community
Unlike the elected governmental candidates which are usually made up by PAP, opposition parties might not have the manpower, permit, or platform to engage the residents on a regular basis e.g. Meet-the-People’s session, carrying out recreational activities or events for residents, sharing their party’s beliefs and direction to the community.
Inadequate volunteers and funds to make presence known
PAP being the main government for many decades – have both presence and power to their advantage. They can tap on People’s Association for volunteers e.g. walkabouts, booth managers during rallies, and have more funds to use for campaigning and publicity compared to opposition parties.
Oppositions on the other hand, have a full-time job, family commitments, as well as having to finding various means to interact with the residents, and getting more fundings to sustain their party’s work. Volunteers may also more often than not, assist on a short-term basis.
They are very essential in enabling the party to maintain presence on social media, improving on a party’s policy papers, fund-raising, community service, and doing walkabouts. External donations the opposition parties received also may not add up to stable governmental funds PAP already has.
All these further results in the lack of on-the-ground presence as the oppositions do not have the same amount of resources, platforms, and manpower to listen to the needs of the residents, or share with residents more about their party’s aims in comparison to potential or present PAP politicians.
4) Unequal political system
The Elections Department of Singapore (ELD) is a department under the Prime Minister’s Office, and the electoral boundaries are only informed just before the election period. Imagine if the new boundaries may result in opposition party candidates and volunteers efforts for the past 5 years going up the drain because of a sudden boundary change. This does significantly impact the election results, as their presence would not be known by residents belonging to the new boundary changes.
Opposition politicians who are NCMPs are only given a basic monthly allowance, and they have to struggle to choose between quitting their jobs, or balancing between their family, work, and NCMP commitments which may be unfair to their job company. They are also not able to make amendments to the constitution. There is too, a low number of NCMP’s positions available, which means lack of chances for opposition candidates to speak in parliament, or to even be allowed to vote for constitutional changes.
Part 2, a continuation of the above post – How can the oppositions can even out the level playing field with PAP (Part 2)
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Written by: Cass
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Article for reading: 1994 – 2015: A Chronology of Authoritarian Rule in Singapore