Singapore’s flawed electoral system

 

Differing political views are pretty significant in driving people apart. I learned this first-hand in politics class, and it was painfully obvious that it would be extremely hard to reconcile differing political views.

 

 

But here’s my explanation and take on the Singaporean electoral system. I’ll just be speaking about the parliamentary elections.

 

Elections in Singapore are based on the First Past The Post system, or FPTP for short. How it works is that the party with the most votes wins. Simple as that. 

 

In Singapore it’s relatively easy to say that hey, PAP won 60% of the votes and the obvious majority, so they should definitely be the sole winners of the election. 

 

But this system is inherently flawed. I’ll try my best to explain it in simpler terms but honestly, it’s a pretty sticky issue and I can’t say for sure that my explanation is correct. But stay with me!

 

In FPTP systems, as I mentioned above, the party with the most votes wins. It’s pretty simple in Singapore because there aren’t many oppositions, but taking a closer look, the flaws are glaring -

 

 

Let’s take the imaginary country of Pizzaland as an example. 

 

In Pizzaland, there are 4 parties. Pepperoni Party, Cheddar Party, Ham Party and Pineapple Party. Elections are held on February 9th, 2014. Results are released and here they are:

 

  • Pepperoni Party – 35%
  • Cheddar Party – 30%
  • Ham Party –  25%
  • Pineapple Party – 10%

 

Pepperoni Party wins as it had 35% of the vote, more than any other party. But do you see a problem? Pepperoni Party won even though they didn’t have a majority vote. In fact, 65% of voters voted against them! They’re not a majority party. But they still won. That’s already a flaw in the system.

 

But you claim that hey, Singapore doesn’t have so many parties! It’s usually PAP vs WP, or PAP vs SDP! And PAP wins a majority! Well, don’t be hasty, stay with me!

 

The next election is held again in 2020. This time, because the voters that voted for the Pineapple Party know that their party wouldn’t win the election anyways, so they decide to shift their support to the Cheddar Party (maybe they don’t like meat as much) and the results are out:

 

  • Cheddar Party – 40%
  • Pepperoni Party – 35%
  • Ham Party – 25%
  • Pineapple Party – 0%

 

This election, Cheddar Party wins and Pineapple Party disbands due to the lack of voters. But Cheddar Party still lacks a majority vote.

 

The 2026 election is held with only 3 parties. This time, the Ham Party voters decide that their party wouldn’t stand a chance and so decide to vote for Pepperoni Party instead. Again, the results are out and here they are:

 

  • Pepperoni Party – 60%
  • Cheddar Party – 40%
  • Ham Party – 0%

 

Pepperoni wins this time, with a majority vote, and Ham Party is disbanded.

 

Essentially, all future elections will only have 2 major parties in the race, and because the other parties are too weak to stand any chance of winning, no new party tries to disrupt the balance.

 

And this is how a FPTP election system leads to a small number of parties in the electoral race.

 

This brings about a number of cons for this system:

 

  1. There is no accurate representation of voter choice – if a party wins 60%, then technically speaking they should only hold 60% of the seats. But in the FPTP system, the winner takes all. So the voters that voted for the 40% party didn’t get representation by their chosen candidate(s) at all.

  2. Gerrymandering can distort votes – a method actively used by the PAP and which I’ll explain in another post

  3. There is no Condorcet Winner – essentially a candidate who would win majority vote even if all opposition candidates are present (here, the Pepperoni Party won majority votes only because the other parties disbanded – if they didn’t, Pepperoni Party wouldn’t have won the majority vote) 

  4. Prevents real political diversity – because Pizzaland had majority meat lovers (60%), Pepperoni Party only had to appeal to the meat lovers and could choose to ignore the non-meat lovers because they would still win majority vote.

  5. Spoiler effect is present – I think I’ll explain this together with Gerrymandering in a future post.

So do you guys see the problems with our electoral system? I’ll talk about the pros of this system later, and compare it with a fairer electoral system. Stay tuned! 

 

Cheers! 

About The Author

Hi, I'm Royce! I founded Mighty.Sg, an internet marketing company. I specialize in Search Engine Optimization (SEO), Social Media Marketing, and Reputation Management. Oh, and I'm a student at Singapore Management University. Enjoy your visit here!

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