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Singapore Fact of the Day

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The opposition parties which competed in the 1997 and 2001 general elections are all to the political "left" of the PAP [the ruling People's Action Party], while the PAP occupies the center-right.  There is no right-wing opposition. (Mauzy and Milne, Singapore Politics Under the People's Action Party)
Does anyone care to hazard an explanation?

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COMMENTS (15 to date)
Blackadder writes:

What platform would such a party run on? Taxes are too high? The PAP is soft on crime?

Scott Wentland writes:

Median Voter Theorem?

Eye on Singapore writes:

Speech or political activism that would incite racial strife is banned, so there can't be a Chinese ethnocentric party fulminating against minorities and foreigners, in the style of European right-wing parties.

Religion is weak and diverse, and the PAP is fairly socially conservative, so no American-style Religious Right.

Economic libertarians are oddballs everywhere, and have a tough time facing off against utilitarian secular conservatives.

Warmongering doesn't get far in a tiny city-state dependent on trade and peace.

The left-wing parties can tacitly harness Malay frustration at their lesser economic success and human capital, and irrational opposition to pragmatic economic policies, but there's no such niche available and permitted on the right.

Sinclair Davidson writes:

Much like Apartheid South Africa - anyone opposed to the dominant political ideology was considered left-wing irrespective of their actual views on economics or other social issues. In Singapore nobody campaigns against the PAP on economic issues, but rather on social issues - this provides the illusion that they are left-wing, whereas individuals could be very right-wing yet still believe in freedom of speech, for example.

Dave writes:

Everyone to the right of PAP was caught chewing gum.

Sima Qian writes:

Eye on Singapore has it basically right.

What can a right-wing opposition offer economically that the PAP hasn't delivered? Very little.

Of the non-economic right-wing social causes, ethnocentrism is a non-starter given that racial politics is taboo. There is simply no marginal advantage to be gained from being "further right" than the PAP, which is scrupulously conservative as it is, and sensitive to the moral pulses of the major religious groups. In turn, organised religion treads softly, and makes no galvanising demands. There is therfore very little traction to be had there. No burning social issues either. No culture wars to fight.

Jayson Virissimo writes:

This seems like just another instance where the left-right spectrum doesn't really shed much light on what the main disagreements are really about. There is no reason why the same person that is in favor of legalized abortion should support the raising of the minimum wage. Many of the ideologies we take for granted are the result of political alliances that were formed in a very specific context and and not merely the logical consequences of certain shared premises. Because of this, it does not help us understand the politics of a country like Singapore to categorize their political factions into neat little packages that have American equivalents.

Ma writes:

Fear of China.

david writes:

It's worth noting that the PAP used to have ethnocentric rightist opposition, which they neatly defeated by moving to the right on those specific issues (namely, on Chinese-language education and support for Chinese schools).

contented writes:

Maybe because we still believe in them and thank god we are not America. Still i will vote against the PAP to get the opposition party in, though on the whole i still want the PAP to rule which is pretty much what we want.

Jacob Oost writes:

Well, from a Hayekian point of view, I think only a Singaporean or a foreigner who has lived a long time in Singapore and closely followed politics could provide a reasonable explanation, because elections are as much about culture as about policy, if not more so.

Wang writes:


Wishing all a Good Lunar New Year 2009.
The main reason would opinee why till present derives from both cultural, demographic and geographical reasons.

a) Continued strength in purchasing power
b) Nearby regions unlike Europe or Americas drive wealth generators here.
c) Continued emphasis on bread & butter issues.
d) until recently, close to full employment although there is structural unemployment issues.
e) the communal approach as societies here derive from it hence law and order emphasis.
f) social net which covers the poverty line in the main although there are gaps.

However, with dominance, this may give rise to other social issues for the wealth gap and issues between the haves and haves a lot and the structural unemployment issues. Further, there is a sense of constant review within.

Whether predominance remains is subjective as there would be a "lite" party being considered.


Adrian writes:

The simplest explanation is that it is a primarily center-left country, when considering the left-right spectrum from an American perspective. To use the example of Canada which culturally is very similar to the US there is only 1 party which could be even slightly described as center-right and the rest of the parties are to its left. And that one center-right party has more in common with the Democrats then they would with the Republicans. There is the fringe, just like there is in any functioning democracy, but they are non-existent from public debate.

8 writes:

I don't see how racial politics is on the right, unless you adhere to the socialist spectrum of international socialists on the left and national socialists on the right.

Taking out the racial component, how many parties in the world are to the right of PAP and how many have ever won a governing majority in a democracy with universal suffrage?

Sima Qian writes:

"Fear of China."

I don't understand this purported explanation. No one "fears" China here. The majority of the population is ethnic Chinese, with ancestral roots in China. Naturally we view China in a more sympthetic light than even the most ardent Sinophiles of the West. Think of how Americans have a cultural soft spot for Britain.

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