The 2011 General Election was the 16th General Election in Singapore and the 11th since independence. The governing People's Action Party (PAP) sought to secure their 13th consecutive term in office since 1959. This was the second election since Lee Hsien Loong became its Secretary-General.
On 11 March 2010, the Government tabled three bills in the parliament to amend the Constitution, the Presidential Elections Act and the Parliamentary Elections Act. These amendments reduced the number of Group representation constituencies (GRC), increased the number of Non-Constituency Members of Parliament (NCMPs) to a maximum of nine (inclusive of the number of elected opposition members of Parliament), and the number of Nominated Members of Parliament (NMPs) permanent also to nine. A one-day "cooling-off" day was implemented, during which campaigning was forbidden, with only party political broadcasts allowed. Internet campaigning was also formally legalised as a legitimate means of political campaigning. On 26 April 2010, the amendments to the Constitution were passed by a vote of 74–1 after a three-hour debate on the bill.
The governing People's Action Party (PAP) has been in power since Singapore's independence in 1965, and is currently led by the Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong. Besides the ruling PAP, the other major political parties that may contest the upcoming elections are the Workers' Party of Singapore (WP) led by Low Thia Khiang, the Singapore People's Party led by Chiam See Tong which left the Singapore Democratic Alliance (SDA) in 2011, the Singapore Democratic Party (SDP) led by Chee Soon Juan, the National Solidarity Party (NSP) led by Goh Meng Seng which left the SDA in 2007, the Reform Party (Singapore) led by Kenneth Jeyaretnam, and the Singapore Democratic Alliance (SDA) led by Desmond Lim, which is composed of the Pertubuhan Kebangsaan Melayu Singapura (Singapore Malay National Organization) (PKMS) and the Singapore Justice Party (SJP). The Reform Party is the newest party and was created on 18 June 2008 and was then led by former Member of Parliament J.B. Jeyaretnam. He could have stood for election after he was discharged from bankruptcy and reinstated to the bar, however, Jeyaretnam died of heart failure on 30 September 2008 at the age of 82. His eldest son, Kenneth Jeyaretnam has since taken up leadership of the party and is now its secretary-general.
The Electoral Boundaries Review Committee normally publishes an updated list of electoral divisions just before elections are called. Prior to the latest amendments, there were fourteen GRCs, each with five or six seats, and nine Single Member Constituencies (SMC). There were a total of 84 seats being contested in the general election of 2006.
The new electoral map for 2011 was announced on 24 February 2011. 87 seats, crafted into 27 electoral divisions, were up for contests in the election. 12 are SMCs and 15 are GRCs. The major changes in the electoral divisions are as follows:New GRCs
Moulmein-Kallang GRC - which was renamed from Jalan Besar GRC, minusing off the Whampoa and Kreta Ayer-Kim Seng divisions.
Chua Chu Kang GRC - It replaced Hong Kah GRC minusing off the Hong Kah North portion.
Nee Soon GRC - It absorbed Nee Soon East SMC, Nee Soon Central SMC, Chong Pang and Canberra division of Sembawang GRC and Nee Soon South division of Ang Mo Kio GRC, reducing overcrowding of Sembawang GRC.
Hong Kah North
Changes in electoral seats within GRCs
Holland-Bukit Timah GRC - five to four
Marine Parade GRC- six to five
Sembawang GRC - six to five
Tanjong Pagar GRC - six to five
Jalan Besar GRC - Jalan Besar, Kolam Ayer, Kampong Glam division of the Jalan Besar GRC go into the newly formed Moulmein-Kallang GRC while Kreta Ayer-Kim Seng division from the Jalan Besar GRC will be absorbed by the Tanjong Pagar GRC.
Hong Kah GRC - renamed to Chua Chu Kang GRC
Chua Chu Kang (absorbed into Chua Chu Kang GRC)
Macpherson (absorbed into Marine Parade GRC)
Nee Soon Central (absorbed into Nee Soon GRC)
Nee Soon East (absorbed into Nee Soon GRC)
Yio Chu Kang (absorbed into Ang Mo Kio GRC)
Changes to GRCs
Kreta Ayer-Kim Seng division inclusive of Clarke Quay part of the Kampong Glam division of former Jalan Besar GRC was moved over to Tanjong Pagar GRC.
Tiong Bahru division was merged with Tanjong Pagar division of the Tanjong Pagar GRC.
Moulmein division was moved to Moulmein-Kallang GRC and Whampoa SMC.
Kaki Bukit division of Marine Parade GRC was moved over to Aljunied GRC whereas some of it moved to Kembangan-Chai Chee (replacing Kampong Ubi-Kembangan).
The redrawn boundaries of Joo Chiat now includes the private housing estate and it excludes the public housing estates, of which it was transferred over to Marine Parade GRC (Geylang Serai).
Nee Soon South division of Ang Mo Kio GRC was transferred to Nee Soon GRC, which excludes the Lentor area south of Seletar Expressway and Lentor moved to Yio Chu Kang.
Aljunied-Hougang division of the Aljunied GRC was renamed to Ang Mo Kio-Hougang division of the Ang Mo Kio GRC.
Some of the Bedok Reservoir-Punggol part of Aljunied GRC was transferred to Punggol South of the Pasir Ris-Punggol GRC.
Hougang SMC was affected by minusing off several blocks to Aljunied GRC.
Punggol South division was affected by minusing off several blocks to Ang Mo Kio-Hougang.
Buona Vista division was transferred from Holland-Bukit Timah GRC to Tanjong Pagar GRC.
Toh Guan part of Holland-Bukit Timah GRC was transferred over to Jurong GRC (Bukit Batok East).
Part of the West Coast GRC and Hong Kah GRC divisions were transferred over to Jurong GRC (Jurong Spring).
Some of the blocks of the Nanyang division for Hong Kah GRC were transferred over to Jurong GRC (Jurong Spring).
One slot of blocks of the Bukit Timah division of the Holland-Bukit Timah GRC was transferred over to Clementi division.
Dr Ang Yong Guan, 56-year-old Consultant Psychiatrist at Paragon Medical, President of the Singapore Psychiatric Association from 1997 to 1998 and Chairman of the Chapter of Psychiatrists, Academy of Medicine from 2001 to 2003.
Alec Tok, 46-year-old Artistic Director at One Kind Theatre LLC.
Mohd Isa Abdul Aziz, 53-year-old Business Development Manager for an Australian Oil and Gas company and a member of the Central Executive Committee of the Singapore Democratic Party.
Sadasivam Veriyah, 58-year-old ex-teacher and a unionist, former member of the People's Action Party.
Tan Jee Say, 57-year-old investment adviser and former Principal Private Secretary to then-DPM Goh Chok Tong.
Dr. Vincent Wijeysingha, 41-year-old Executive Director of Transient Workers Count Too (TWC2), a non-government organisation advocating the rights of low-waged migrant workers.
Alex Yam, 30-year-old NTUC activist
Ang Hin Kee, 46-year-old chief executive of NTUC e2i.
Ang Wei Neng, 44-year-old vice-president of SBS Transit West District.
Chan Chun Sing, 42-year-old former SAF Chief of Army
Chia Shi-Lu, 40-year-old orthopaedic surgeon at Singapore General Hospital
David Ong, 50-year-old businessman
Desmond Choo, 33-year-old deputy director of NTUC's youth development unit and the executive secretary of the Union of Security Employees.
Desmond Lee, 35-year-old legal and regulations department of Temasek Holdings.
Edwin Tong, 42-year-old lawyer
Foo Mee Har, 45-year-old Standard Chartered Bank banker
Gan Thiam Poh, 48-year-old DBS banker
Heng Swee Keat, 50-year-old former managing director of Monetary Authority of Singapore.
Intan Azura Mokhtar, 35-year-old NIE trainer
Janil Puthucheary, 39-year-old surgeon from KK Women's and Children's Hospital
Lawrence Wong, 39-year-old from Energy Market Authority and former civil servant
Low Yen Ling, 37-year-old former EDB director
Ong Teng Koon, 34-year-old commodities trader
Ong Ye Kung, 42-year-old assistant secretary-general from NTUC.
Patrick Tay, 40-year-old trade unionist.
Sim Ann, 36-year-old high-flying civil servant
Tan Chuan-Jin, 42-year-old former SAF.
Tin Pei Ling, 27-year-old in Ernst & Young.
Vikram Nair, 33-year-old lawyer
Zainal Sapari, 46-year-old educator, former Pasir Ris area schools' superintendent
All politicians who were retiring or stepping down from their seats were from the PAP.Abdullah Tarmugi, Speaker of the Parliament, MP for East Coast GRC.
Ahmad Magad, MP for Pasir Ris-Punggol GRC.
Ang Mong Seng, MP for Hong Kah GRC.
Chan Soo Sen, MP for Joo Chiat SMC.
Ho Peng Kee, MP for Nee Soon East SMC.
Koo Tsai Kee, MP for Tanjong Pagar GRC.
Lee Boon Yang, MP for Jalan Besar GRC.
Lim Boon Heng, MP for Jurong GRC.
Madeleine Ho, MP for West Coast GRC.
Matthias Yao, MP for MacPherson SMC.
Ong Ah Heng, MP for Nee Soon Central SMC.
Ong Kian Min, MP for Tampines GRC.
Ong Seh Hong, MP for Marine Parade GRC.
S Jayakumar, MP for East Coast GRC.
Sin Boon Ann, MP for Tampines GRC.
Wee Siew Kim, MP for Ang Mo Kio GRC.
Yeo Cheow Tong, MP for Hong Kah GRC.
Yu-Foo Yee Shoon, MP for Holland-Bukit Timah GRC.
Soon after the announcement of the new electoral boundaries, various opposition parties indicated their intent to contest, subject to negotiations between political parties to avoid three-cornered fights. The parties declaring an interest to contest each constituency and their nomination status is reflected below.National Solidarity Party
The Reform Party
Singapore Democratic Party
Singapore People's Party
In the first pre-election forum of this nature in Singapore since the 1988 General Election, Channel NewsAsia invited the main parties to record an hour-long programme. The programme, in English entitled, “A political forum on Singapore’s future” brought together the ruling People’s Action Party (PAP) and four opposition parties to discuss long and short-term challenges for the country. The forum includedDr Vincent Wijeysingha, Assistant Treasurer of the Singapore Democratic Party
Mrs Lina Chiam, 2nd Vice Chairwoman of the Singapore People's Party
Mr Gerald Giam, Assistant Webmaster of Workers' Party of Singapore
Mr Mohamed Nazem Suki, Assistant Secretary-General of the Singapore Democratic Alliance
Tharman Shanmugaratnam, Finance Minister, and Bishan-Toa Payoh GRC MP Josephine Teo of the PAP
The Worker's Party utilised social media to circumvent obstacles placed in front of them by Singapore's government-controlled media.
The Singapore Police Force announced 41 political rally sites on 27 April which could be booked by political parties on a first-come-first-served basis. Rallies were allowed to be conducted from 28 April to 5 May, from 7 am to 10 pm. The 41st site is for lunch time rallies at Boat Quay near to the UOB Plaza.
During the 2011 elections campaigning, Vivian Balakrishnan said the SDP was "suppressing a certain YouTube video, which raises some very awkward questions about the agenda and motivations of the SDP and its candidates". He issued the following statement:
I am not sure what [the SDP] strategy is...I can’t help feeling that part of the reason for their reticence is they have elements of their agenda they are not prepared to disclose and subject to scrutiny. Eventually, they will have to come out of the closet. (The Straits Times, 20 April 2011)
Vincent Wijeysingha rejected his comments stating, "We've been a very open party and we're very clear."
This incident was cited in an article published in The Economist criticising the ruling party's election strategy The New Paper released a story next day, with the headline: Is Singapore ready for a GAY MP?" Kenneth Jeyaretnam of the Reform Party called Balakrishnan's campaign a "low attack."
Balakrishnan received widespread controversy and criticism online for his remark,. On 28 April, he told the press: "there is "no need" to further discuss [the] video". He said that his question was a "legitimate".
Nicole Seah from NSP team in Marine Parade GRC filed a complaint to the Elections Department on 6 May stating Tin Pei Ling had violated the state-mandated cooling-off period 24 hours before polls by posting a Facebook comment "in response to a video [in the state press] that showed Seah crying after being told about a Macpherson female resident who could not get a refund of her son's $80 tuition fees".
The NSP team was advised by the Elections Department to file a police report before the Elections Department could investigate.
The day after the election, Seah told reporters that her party had not received any response after making the complaint, and said no decision had been taken on whether or not to pursue the issue. She added that the NSP knew "it is an uphill battle to get any results out of this. I would rather devote my time and resources to the residents".
A similar complaint was lodged against Seah alleging that material had been published on her Facebook page during Cooling-Off Day. On 10 August, the Singapore Police Force announced that it had concluded its investigations into the two incidents, and that aside from a "stern warning" to Tin's friend, no action would be taken against either Tin or Seah.
Separately, the NSP also complained that the PAP had been distributing election material to residents in Tampines GRC in violation of cooling-off regulations.
After polls closed at 8pm, vote counting began. Results were announced by Yam Ah Mee, chief executive director of the People's Association, who acted as the Returning Officer for the election. The first result was declared at 11.58pm on 7 May 2011, where PAP candidate Lim Biow Chuan won the Mountbatten Single Member Constituency with a majority of 3,529.
At 1.31 am on 8 May 2011, the PAP team for Ang Mo Kio Group Representation Constituency was declared to have won the division, putting the PAP's seat tally at 44 seats, and thus formed the government.
The final result to be declared was for the Potong Pasir Single Member Constituency at 2.51am on 8 May, where the PAP gained the seat from the SPP on a razor-thin margin of 114 votes.
The political status quo was kept as the People's Action Party won a 13th consecutive term in office since 1959. However, the PAP saw its vote majorities reduced island-wide for a second election in a row. The PAP won 81 seats out of 87 despite losing Aljunied Group Representation Constituency to the WP, which also won in Hougang Single Member Constituency. None of the other five opposition parties won contests, including the SPP which lost the Potong Pasir Single Member Constituency that it held prior to the election. The WP's win in Aljunied marked the first opposition GRC victory since GRCs were introduced. The WP win in Aljunied meant an electoral defeat of Foreign Minister George Yeo and a second Cabinet minister Lim Hwee Hua. Yeo became the highest-ranking PAP cabinet minister to lose an election since 1963 when minister Kenneth Michael Byrne lost his seat of Crawford. The PAP's national vote share was just little over 60 per cent, a vote swing of almost negative 7 per cent from 2006.
Voter turnout for the election was 93.18%, with 2,060,373 votes cast.People's Action Party
Defeated in Aljunied GRC, where Cynthia Phua, George Yeo, Lim Hwee Hua and Zainul Abidin bin Mohamed Rasheed were incumbent candidates.
Singapore People's Party
Defeated in Potong Pasir SMC, which was held by Chiam See Tong prior to the election. Chiam did not run in Potong Pasir in these elections, instead letting his wife contest it.
Top 10 best PAP performersConstituencies with no comparison to 2006 were either due to them being new constituencies or the constituencies experiencing walkovers in the last election.
Top 16 best opposition performersConstituencies with no comparison to 2006 were either due to them being new constituencies or the constituencies experiencing walkovers in the last election.
Punggol East SMC is excluded from the table as there were two opposition parties which competed against the incumbent. If the WP's 12,765 votes (41.02%) and the SDA's 1,386 votes (4.45%) were summed up, the opposition won 14,151 votes (45.47%), which would place it fifth in the table below.
Vote SwingsOnly the following constituencies may be compared with 2006 results as they existed in both elections, although most had changes in their electoral boundaries.
The People's Action Party's secretary-general, Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong, described the results as delivering his party a "clear mandate to form the next government". In his post-election press conference, Lee said the polls had "heightened (voters') political consciousness and awareness", and admitted that "many of them desire to see more opposition voices in Parliament to check the PAP government". He described the PAP's loss of Aljunied GRC, which resulted in George Yeo being voted out of Parliament and losing his position as foreign minister, as a "heavy loss to my Cabinet and my team of MPs", but said that the party would "accept and respect the voters' decision". The country's Senior Minister, Goh Chok Tong, also admitted that "there is a sea change in the political landscape" after his team won Marine Parade Group Representation Constituency with just 56.6 percent of the vote.
The Workers Party's secretary-general Low Thia Khiang said his team's win in Aljunied meant that voters had "accepted the WP as a rational, responsible and respected party". In his victory speech, Low declared his win as a "political landmark in modern Singapore". He added that it meant the electorate wanted to tell the PAP to be "a more responsive, inclusive, transparent and accountable government”.
In a statement on its website, the Singapore Democratic Party thanked its supporters for their support, saying that it was for them that the party "(continues) to labour on in this undemocratic system with all the odds stacked against us." Its assistant treasurer Vincent Wijeysingha, who stood in Holland-Bukit Timah Group Representation Constituency, said that the party's positive vote swing in its contested wards of almost 13 percent from the last elections was an "indicator that things are beginning to move up for our party." In a second statement on its website, the SDP described its results as "disappointing", but promised to "build on the foundation that we have laid" for the next elections. The party's secretary-general Chee Soon Juan, barred from standing in the election, went on to write an opinion piece for the Guardian, in which he said it "would have been a miracle" had the SDP won any seats, and accused the media in Singapore of suppressing news of the SDP's campaigning.
Other than the PAP and WP, the only other opposition seat pre-election had been held by the Singapore People's Party, which lost it in the polls by just 114 votes. Chiam See Tong, the SPP's secretary-general, said his party would fight to win back Potong Pasir Single Member Constituency, and said that despite being defeated in Bishan-Toa Payoh Group Representation Constituency, he would continue in politics, health permitting. He also questioned the margin of votes in Potong Pasir, contested by his wife, saying there was "funny business" happening. A petition calling for a by-election in the constituency was started by SPP supporters and Potong Pasir residents.
The National Solidarity Party, which contested the most seats of all opposition parties, admitted it may have taken on too much, with its leader Goh Meng Seng telling reporters that he would be "personally responsible" for the party's failure to win a single seat. Its star candidate, Nicole Seah, said Singaporeans now had to unite as a country. Seah, who contested in Marine Parade, also said there was "so much that needs to be done", and that she would continue her work in the area despite her team's defeat.
The leader of the newest opposition party contesting the elections, the Reform Party's Kenneth Jeyaretnam, described his party as having "learnt a lot" and said they had "done very well", as the first new party in over 20 years. He added that the party was "very happy" at its result in West Coast Group Representation Constituency, and that its second team had done "creditably" in Ang Mo Kio Group Representation Constituency. Jeyaretnam also said the team being able to win the votes it did despite being a new party meant that its "core values resonate with the voters".
The worst-performing party at the polls was the Singapore Democratic Alliance, whose secretary-general Desmond Lim polled under 5 percent of votes in Punggol East Single Member Constituency—the only three-way contest of the election—and lost a S$16,000 election deposit. He said voters had voted based on brand name, as the other opposition candidate in the ward was from the WP. The SDA also contested Pasir Ris-Punggol Group Representation Constituency, and Lim said the party was "very happy" at its positive vote swing from 2006 of over 4 percent. However, the SDA's anchorman in the constituency Harminder Pal Singh described the loss as a "time for painful reflection" and said the party would work harder to win more votes.
At an ASEAN heads-of-state meeting in Jakarta, Indonesia, leaders of ASEAN nations reportedly told S Jayakumar, Singapore's representative at the event, that they were "saddened, disappointed and surprised" at the news that foreign minister Yeo had been defeated, according to the state-run Straits Times, while at the same meeting the Prime Minister of Malaysia, Najib Tun Razak, said the PAP's win would mean a continuity in understanding between the Malaysian and Singaporean governments on bilateral issues.
Three Non-Constituency Members of Parliament (NCMP) seats were offered after the election to the top three losing opposition candidates. The Singapore People's Party accepted the seat for Lina Chiam, ensuring that the Chiam family retained representation in Parliament. While Chiam See Tong has said he is opposed to the scheme, the SPP reasoned that it was "critical" to ensure an "alternative voice in Parliament", to allow the party to "remain engaged in national issues", and to be publicly visible until the next election due by 2016. Mrs Chiam also pointed out that she was "influenced by the wishes of Potong Pasir residents" and she accepted the post as her losing margin was too small.
The Workers' Party was offered the final two NCMP seats for having the second and third best performing losing candidates, which it accepted despite Mr Low also disputing the scheme. Yee Jenn Jong was thus appointed for his performance in Joo Chiat SMC, but as it had to choose one member from the East Coast GRC team, the younger Gerald Giam was chosen over team leader and party treasurer Eric Tan as part of its leadership renewal process. Eric Tan resigned from the party, citing his disagreement with the appointment.
On 16 May 2011, the three proposed NCMPs were formally appointed.
Use of social media
The election saw a heavier use of social and online media compared to Singapore general election, 2006, especially to evade censorship in Singapore. It is widely perceived by the populace that the major state-run newspapers and broadcasters "align[ed] itself with the party's ideals and decisions" and that the electoral system was tilted against the Opposition. It had been difficult to create alternative media until the rise of sites such as The Online Citizen and such internet tools such as Facebook, Twitter and blogs, which saw increased significance in the 2006 elections but became especially prominent in the 2011 elections. According to The Economist, the PAP's aggressive modernisation of Singapore created "one of the world's most wired societies," leading to new media that "transformed" the electoral scene in Singapore. Characterising the state-run mainstream press as "docile", the Economist also argued that this also forced significantly more news coverage of the Opposition than in previous elections, since the mainstream media feared their readership deserting them. One blogger from CNN wrote, "Thanks to social media, it doesn’t matter that the country’s largely state-run media leans towards reporting the actions of the PAP, no one’s reading anyway.". The Economist however was more cynical in its analysis of the election: "in Singapore, winning 7% of parliamentary seats is tantamount to an opposition triumph".
Traditionally regarded as a PAP "fortress", a GRC fell to the opposition for the first time in Singapore's political history. In previous elections, the Opposition had never won a GRC, which ostensibly ensure minority representation in parliament but also shut out smaller opposition parties with less resources. GRCs comprise over 86% of the seats, but the Opposition in previous elections would contest "less than half the seats". The election saw the most extensive use of co-ordination to avoid "three-cornered fights" and was also notable for seeing "two veteran MPs" making immense risks by choosing to contest in GRCs rather than their historical SMC strongholds.
The election results were widely used in national and international discussions that the population was trying to send a message to a ruling party that "can also come across as smug, arrogant and high-handed" despite a win margin of over 20%, which usually counts as a landslide victory for most democratic nations but has been one of the narrowest margins since 1965. The last election with a similarly narrow victory occurred in the Singapore general election, 1963, when the PAP's major opponent was the Barisan Sosialis—which in itself was a splinter group formed from the leftist wing of the PAP, where it had comprised 80% of the PAP grassroots membership, 35 out of the PAP's 51 branch committees and 19 of its 23 organising secretaries. According to the Economist, Singaporeans would prefer not to have an alternative government but a humbler one, as well as a "stronger opposition".
On 14 May, exactly a week after the election, Senior Minister Goh Chok Tong and Minister Mentor Lee Kuan Yew announced in a joint statement that they would be quitting the country's Cabinet, saying it was time for a "team of younger ministers" to "engage with this young generation in shaping the future of Singapore." In a similar analysis by Bloomberg, the resignations and the ensuing cabinet reshuffle were the actions of a ruling party "seeking to overhaul its image with voters" whose "narrowest election victory on record signaled a shortfall in support among younger voters". Lee Kuan Yew was also quoted as saying that a younger generation was required to "carry Singapore forward in a more difficult and complex situation" while Lee Hsien Loong declared the party "would change the way it governs" and do some "soul-searching". A Singapore Management University professor said "[The PAP] will have to demonstrate that it remains a mass movement, and not [Lee Kuan Yew]’s alter ego," noting that younger Singaporeans do not see Lee Kuan Yew with the same godlike perception as older Singaporeans born before 1980.
Both losing ministers in Aljunied GRC, George Yeo and Minister in the Prime Minister's Office Lim Hwee Hua, announced their retirements from politics in separate news conferences given in the days after the election. George Yeo, who remained popular online and continued to have "a flood of support" after the election and had been repeatedly urged to contest the next election, or even contest the Singaporean presidential election, 2011 turned his supporters down, declaring, "I'm a free spirit, and I don't think I'm temperamentally suited for such a job."