Singapore must hold its next general election by early 2021, but most observers expect it by early 2020. The long dominant People’s Action Party performed well in 2015, boosted mainly by Lee Kuan Yew’s death and the country’s 50th independence anniversary. Without such extraordinary events, however, the coming election will likely return to the “new normal” of 2011, when the PAP received its lowest vote share in decades. Other recent developments indicate significant political change. Tan Cheng Bock, an ex-PAP cadre, has formed a new opposition party that received the endorsement of the Prime Minister’s own brother. The PAP is in the midst of an inter-generational leadership transition that has not proceeded with the party’s usual predictability. Widening income inequality, interethnic tensions, and Singaporean-foreigner relations have taken on contentious overtones. Observers anticipating a Malaysia-style electoral breakthrough may be disappointed, but it is clear that politics in Singapore are changing in fundamental ways. With the election expected either shortly before or after the 2020 AAS meeting, this roundtable offers an important opportunity for a diverse group of scholars to share their expertise on Singapore’s politics.
Lily Rahim, Associate Professor at the University of Sydney, specializes in authoritarian governance, democratization, and minority rights in Singapore and Southeast Asia. She will explore the significance of elections on interethnic relations, socio-economic inequality, and migration.
Elvin Ong, Overseas Postdoctoral Fellow at the National University of Singapore, studies opposition parties and coalition formation. He will discuss the dynamics of opposition behavior and assess the performance of the various opposition parties.
Kirsten Han, Editor-in-Chief, New Naratif, writes and researches on a range of topics related to politics in Singapore and Southeast Asia. She also curates We, The Citizens, a weekly email newsletter that covers Singaporean politics.
Steven Oliver, Assistant Professor at Yale-NUS College, researches voting behavior in Southeast Asia. He will discuss the main determinants of the Singaporean electorate’s vote choices in recent elections and assess the current drivers of voting behavior.
Kai Ostwald, Director, Centre for Southeast Asia Research, University of British Columbia, researches elections and inter-ethnic relations in Southeast Asia, and will chair/moderate the roundtable.