The Howard government continues to work closely with the dictators in Singapore when they really are a disgrace. Singapore-based foreign correspondent Eric Ellis recently had this excellent column in The Australian about the island nation’s appalling defamation laws and check out this amazing article in the government controlled Straits Times from last year as the dictators announced the people were going to the polls.

Government run Straits Times

Friday, October 19, 2001

Bertha Henson

Associate News Editor

NOV 3 is Polling Day, nine days after Nomination Day on Oct 25.

The announcement comes just a day after the new electoral map was made public, making the 2001 election the snappiest of all snap polls Singapore has held.

The President, on the advice of the Prime Minister, dissolved Parliament yesterday and issued the election writ.

A flurry of other announcements followed: There will be 10 nomination centres, the election deposit is S$13,000 [A$14,107] for each candidate, and Home Affairs ministry deputy secretary Tan Boon Huat was named the Returning Officer.

For the first time, aspiring MPs must obtain a Political Donation Certificate ststing that they had not received any foreign funding.

Prime Minister Goh Chok Tong told reporters yesterday that he planned to call the GE early next year, but changed his mind after the September 11 terrorist attacks in the United States.

He wanted it out of the way quickly so that the country can focus on bigger issues, especially on creating jobs during the deepening recession.

He was also concerned about Singapore’s security. “The risk at the moment is very small for Singapore, but we never know.”

PM Goh, the People’s Action Party chief, is in Shanghai for the Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation summit. He will return Monday.

Yesterday, his party introduced its first four new candidates out of a slate of about 27. PAP’s first assistant secretary general Lee Hsien Loong described the batch as “at least equal, probably better than” the 1997 one.

The four are: Neurosurgeon Balaji Sadasivan, 46; Madam Halimah Yacob, 47, Assistant Secretary-General of the NTUC; Madam Ho Geok Choo, 45, Vice-President of Human Resources in SIA Engineering Company; and Mr Raymond Lim, 42, Managing Director of Temasek Holdings.

Like PM Goh, the Deputy Prime Minister also noted the sober circumstances in which the elections were being held.

Their remarks appear to confirm talk that the PAP would pitch itself to the two million voters as the party best able to lead the country in these uncertain times. It will unveil its manifesto today.

A Nov 3 General Election comes as no surprise to political observers, who had noted the heightened activity at the PAP grassroots and the “window” in the Government’s calendar of activities.

Opposition politicians also sniffed an early poll, when they described the recently announced S$11.3-billion [A$12.6-billion] off-Budget package to help Singaporeans cope with the downturn and the New Singapore Shares as PAP “vote-buying” tactics.

Still, they appeared to have been caught off-guard and, to a man [sic], yesterday accused the PAP of bullying tactics.

Said National Solidarity Party’s Steve Chia, who will contest the Chua Chu Kang seat: “They are afraid of losing, and cannot afford to lose. That’s why they are using such underhand tactics by not giving the opposition any preparation time.”

The opposition now has seven days to settle its slate of candidates and where to field them no mean feat given that the boundary changes were announced only on Wednesday.

The Singapore Democratic Alliance said last night that it will field eight candidates, in one five-member Group Representation Constituency and three single-seat wards.

As in past elections, it will be a hectic nine-day campaign period, the minimum provided for under the law.

Polling Day, a Saturday, is a public holiday.”


A Singapore watcher responds

I don’t know where to begin commenting on this piece – I think there’s a giggle in nearly every paragraph there, from the ludicrous timescales, gerrymandering, registrations, to the PM being out of the country and the one-sided journalism.

I’m sure you’d have more to say in comparing this to Australia’s electoral policies. As you probably know, Singapore’s political system is the most one-sided democracy in the entire world, but the people are happy with it that way.

It’s often been said the Singapore public are relative automatons, following the path the government has laid out for them, creativity and entrepreneurship stifled, but generally happy, safe, well-fed and economically strong. Marx eat your heart out.