(Photo by Seloloving via Wikimedia Commons/CC BY-SA 4.0 DEED)

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In 1959, the People’s Action Party (PAP) began building a one-party-dominated electoral system, leading the country on a new path. The PAP has been in power since winning their election that year. While Singapore has high levels of social welfare, a strong GDP ranking, and a high ranking in development by HDI standards, the country is not without its issues. The dominance of one political party in the country has meant not all freedoms, such as access to independent media or space to protest, are allowed. With this in mind, the PAP has a large monopoly on power. Without stable and substantial opposition parties in the legislature, there is the risk of corruption, lack of accountability, and a fractured constituent trust in the government — as seen in Singapore’s recent political scandals and the ultimate disconnection between party officials and citizens.

Political Scandal and Inaccessible Housing in Singapore

Singapore is home to the second-highest population density in the world, partly due to its unique political structure and geographic location. With a large population continuing to grow, affordable housing should be accessible and ensured. Yet, Singapore has high rates of government ownership of property leased for private use in various industries or for housing. Depending on the needs of citizens and residents, the government can direct land for different purposes after the lease ends. 

Map of Singapore, home to the second-highest population density globally (Mapcreator).

The political scandals in Singapore emerged when politicians in the PAP were granted access to leasing properties at low rates. The scandals are significant because Singapore is densely populated with high housing prices, even for many public housing options. Due to the limited housing available to the public before turning 35, which means competition for housing for younger citizens, it has been politically damaging for government members to use their power and influence to improve properties they wished to rent.

This political scandal exemplifies the issue of one party holding political power for long periods with limited opposition. While PAP has an excellent economic improvement and political stability record, the political and social freedom standard is low. In the presidential election, there was consensus on a potential candidate opposing the PAP-endorsed winner. However, the election could have shown more interest in a political outsider running the party. 

Streamlined Power and Planning

The central government has immense power over the people’s daily lives due to the country’s compact size and overarching policies on land use or public subsidies, most commonly public housing. The country’s economic policies have centred on labour development into high-income industries, including trade, finance, and manufacturing, which has allowed the tiny nation to become an economic powerhouse. The economic policies improved the city-state’s likelihood of achieving public well-being by mixing a capitalistic free market and a supportive welfare system, especially in providing subsidized house ownership that helped people have better lives. This housing policy meant people could pursue good work and careers with the government’s support to ensure housing stability. 

Other countries with mixed market styles of vital welfare and open economies, such as Nordic countries with strong support for interest, have succeeded with this economic policy. However, those countries have had more competitive elections and leadership turnover to allow new ideas and political action. The apartment scandal shows an issue with political authority with no conflict, which means if there is a disconnection between the well-being of citizens and government officials, there are legal ways to express that political disapproval except through voting for other parties. 

Muted Opposition: Lack of Political Dispute

While not having success in the most recent presidential election, with a PAP-endorsed official winning, the opposition in Singapore consists of many different parties. However, no party has ruled or signed a power-sharing agreement with PAP to govern. The immigration policies of the country and how many newcomers were allowed to work in the past influenced elections. Consequently, the discontent towards elected officials and high housing costs may shape political deliberations concerning legislation on international workers and housing policy. In addition, opposition parties, such as the Workers Party, made proposals that may influence the outcomes of said legislation. The Workers Party proposed reforms to shorten housing mortgages by ten years; despite the lack of political discourse between competing parties, the electorate still has a voice in the policies pursued. 

PAP Electoral Strength

Singapore shows the value of economic well-being, creating political support for a ruling party; however, as seen in countries with more competitive elections, scandals, and mounting socioeconomic issues still concern citizens when voting. Despite the recent leasing scandal, the PAP has demonstrated enduring electoral support, suggesting that opposition parties may encounter challenges when contending against a broadly popular governance model that has significantly improved Singaporeans’ living standards. 

The PAP has seen the importance of supporting the well-being of citizens through subsidies, helping the public to maintain electoral support. Still, the country’s leaders have not felt compelled to grant more political discourse to allow for more competitive elections. This political freedom may let new ideas or more awareness of political corruption so parties stay honest with the citizens and continue to have public trust when the government and city face challenging times.

Edited by Gabrielle Andrychuk

Solomon Johnson

Solomon is a resident of Albuquerque and a recent graduate of the University of New Mexico, where he studied Political Science and International Studies. His research mainly focuses on the European Union...