Politics World

Singapore’s general election and its effects on Malaysia


Zaidi Azmi
Written by Zaidi Azmi

KUALA LUMPUR – September 3, 2015: Seven months has passed since Singaporeans mourned the death of their first prime minister Lee Kuan Yew and now they are ready to once again decide the future of their island republic at the polls.

Last week, Singapore president Tony Tan Keng Yam dissolved the parliament under the advice of prime minister Lee Hsien Loong, thus paving the way for the island republic’s 13th general election (GE) on September 11.

Political analysts pointed out to The Mole that the Singapore’s GE does have an impact on Malaysia as the two countries share a “very unique political and electoral symbiosis”.

They were of the opinion that what happen in Singapore will have a ripple effect on Malaysia and vice versa.

Singapore-Malaysia political symbiosis.

Based on the outcome of previous GEs in both countries, the performance of the anti-establishment elements in Singapore and Malaysia appears to be interdependent with each other.

For instance, during the Singapore’s 2006 GE; the opposition Worker’s Party gained an additional 13.3 per cent votes as the ruling People’s Action Party (PAP) suffered an 8.7 per cent loss in popular votes.

Two years after that, during Malaysia’s 2008 GE, the ruling coalition Barisan Nasional, performed poorly against the now-defunct Pakatan Rakyat.

Pakatan had even managed to take control of Kedah, Perak, Penang, Selangor and most parliament seats in the Federal Territory.

Then, during Singapore’s 2011 GE, PAP lost nearly seven per cent of the votes and only managed to get a mere 60.14 per cent of popular votes, which is the worst ever in the party’s history.

This was followed by Malaysia’s GE 2013, where BN, despite winning back Kedah and consolidating itself in Perak, lost the popular vote by only managing 47.38 per cent against Pakatan’s 50.87 per cent.

Taking cue from the statistics, geostrategist Dr Azmi Hassan of Perdana School and Geospatial Institute concurred over the existence of such political relationship between Malaysia and Singapore.

He, however explained that the political symbiosis between the two countries are more complex than what the statistics would suggest.

He added that “there were times when the influence of the opposition in Malaysia had adversely affect the opposition in Singapore and vice versa.”

“So, even though statistics showed that whenever Singapore opposition gained good result, the same goes for its counterpart in Malaysia, I tend to read such analogy differently,” said Azmi.

He believed that in Malaysia, the usual sentiment is that, PAP is relatively friendly with the opposition, particularly with DAP, as compared to BN.

“Therefore if Singapore opposition did well in the upcoming GE it will only bring minimum advantage to the Malaysian opposition.

“On the other hand if PAP fared better compare to the 2011 GE, then the incumbent Malaysian government can used the result to their advantage. In a nutshell, a big win for PAP is good for Malaysia’s economy.

“Nevertheless, I don’t foresee any real future hiccup in Singapore-Malaysia bilateral relations as there will be only minimum change in terms of seats held by PAP or the percentage of popular vote in the upcoming Singapore’s GE.

“If and only if PAP lost a lot of seats and its popular vote dip below 55 per cent, the result will translate badly on the incumbent Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong and indirectly will affect Prime Minister Datuk Seri Najib Razak chances during our next GE.”

Nonethless, when asked if Singapore’s opposition is getting stronger, he inferred that the anti-establishment sentiment in Singapore is gradually gaining tract.

“The 60.14 per cent popular vote managed by PAP in 2011 is the lowest since independence.

“When PAP, for the first time lost the GRC (group representative constituency) at Aljuneid to the Workers party in the 2011 election, plus the relatively poor number of popular votes it won, it was a very clear signal that the anti-establishment sentiment is on the rise,” he said.

Landslide victory for PAP

 Another analyst Professor Dr Hoo Ke Ping also agreed over the complex nature of the political symbiosis established between Malaysia and Singapore.

However, unlike Azmi who speculated that the opposition in Singapore would do better in the upcoming GE, Hoo was of differing views.

He explained that even though previous statistics suggest that the opposition parties in Singapore would fare well in the upcoming GE but latest happenings in Singapore and Malaysia will ensure PAP to achieve a “landslide victory.”

Hoo was of the opinion that the political sentiments that were advantageous for Singapore’s opposition floated during its 2011 GE has changed.

“The comparisons of such statistics are interesting but these are just figures, we should also look at the macro political sentiments floated during the 2011 GE.

“During the 2011 GE, there were several factors that cause the rise in the number of opposition candidates contesting in the election.

“These factors also include the Lehman Brothers Minibond scandal. At that time, Singapore’s central bank Monetary Authority of Singapore (MAS) allowed Lehman Brothers to collect nearly USD$ 5 billion.

“Then it turns out to be that this was a cheating scheme because the minibonds sold by Lehman Brothers were never a bond but instead it was a credit default swap.

“This easily hurt over 20,000 Singaporeans, they lost everything but later were compensated. Nevertheless, at that time Singaporeans were angry with their government,” said Hoo.

However, Hoo said that the “biggest blunder” that the late Kuan Yew did which inadvertently resulted in PAP’s poor electoral performance in the 2011 GE was when he endorsed the opposition in Malaysia in 2008.

He added that this act was an ‘eye opener’ to the younger Singaporean voters which prompted them into thinking that “opposition can also be very good.”

Hoo then cited another incident that further angered Singaporeans, such as when Kuan Yew and Hsien Loong called the parliament to amend the country’s constitution to allow MAS to use their vast monetary reserves to solve their illiquidity problems.

“They need to do it because Singapore could go bankrupt if they don’t and in fact at that time it was Obama (US president Barrack Obama) who gave them USD$ 50 billion to solve their problem.

“These incidents were well reported and circulated in the internet and when the younger Singaporean voters read it, they whacked their government in the 2011 GE.

“PAP shouldn’t have lost Aljuneid GRC during the 2011 GE but they did…this proves that the people are angry with them,” he said.

Hoo, nonetheless, stated that the anger culminated during the 2011 GE has now subsided and deemed that the political tides have turned to PAP’s advantage.

“Now, Singaporeans are likely to vote for PAP because several incidents that happens in Malaysia.

“First, is the death Pakatan…you see back then in 2008, when Pakatan had managed to fare really well against BN, their performance had inspired Singaporeans to go against their government.

“Now, since Pakatan is no more, they can no longer inspire Singaporean voters in doing the same thing they did in its 2011 GE.

“On top of that we have Pas’s ‘Hudud’ issue which was also popularized in Singapore and its not just the Chinese Singaporean who is afraid of Hudud even the Malay Singaporean are afraid of it.

“So the positive influence of Malaysia’s opposition towards Singapore‘s opposition during its 2011 GE has now become negative,” Hoo told The Mole.

The second incident which spooked Singaporeans was the Low Yatt incident that occurred last month.

Hoo said that Low Yatt incident that was widely reported and perceived as a racial dispute between the Malays and the Chinese.

“This had caused Singaporean Chinese, particularly the pioneers (those aged 50 and above) to worry.

“Chinese called such incident as ‘Pai Hua’ and this is a popular word in Singapore, Taiwan and China.

“Pai Hua, means kill the Chinese and this is a common word used to describe any incident where Chinese are being victimized.

“Now the pioneers in Singapore are worried because in 1964 there was a communal riot in Geylang Serai involving the Chinese and the Malays

“So when Low Yatt incident happen the old people will talk about it and will warn the younger generation of such tragedy,” Hoo said.

Having listed the factors influencing Singapore-Malaysia political and electoral symbiosis, Hoo, once again reiterated his stand that the “PAP will achieve a landslide victory in the upcoming GE.”

“This time around, PAP will consolidate surer votes that they will gain from pioneer voters, particularly those who were born in 1965.

“They will focus more these pioneers because these voters are staunch supporters of PAP.

“Moreover, they will also centre their strategy in capitalizing the death of Lee Kuan Yew to get sympathy votes and this is why Hsien Loong had call for the GE as soon as possible.

“They will rely on Kuan Yew’s aura while it lasts,” Hoo claimed.



About the author

Zaidi Azmi

Zaidi Azmi

If Zaidi Azmi isn’t busy finding his way in the city, this 26-year-old northern kampung boy can be found struggling to make sense of the Malaysian political scene. Zaidi can be reached at [email protected]