Election reform: What needs to be done

Singapore Democrats
22 Jan 08

In his speech at the election reform forum on Sunday organised by the Singapore Democrats, Dr Chee Soon Juan pointed out several activities that needed to be done in order to being about change to our electoral system:

Research best practices. A report is much needed to reflect best practices in elections systems around the world. It is not to compare the types of elections such as the winner-take-all system or proportional representation format but rather to publish a set of recommended practices that allows elections to be conducted fairly and cleanly. The deficiencies of the system in Singapore can then be measured against these best practices and focus be made to rectify the ills.

Develop website. A website that would document all the information about Singapore’s election system and its flaws is presently not available. Such a site would be very useful for reform activists as well as researchers/observers/analysts.

“Citizens of Singapore cannot democratically change their government.”

~ Freedom House

Publish training manual for poll watchers. A write-up should be published on the goings-on of elections for volunteer poll watchers. The publication would highlight the process of voting and teach the watchers what to look out for as well as to report any anomaly that occurs.

“Free and fair elections do not exist in Singapore. The opposition…is given no chance of providing the type of dialogue and civil debate that exists in democratic states.”

~ Election Study Mission from the
Alliance for Reform and Democracy in Asia

Recruit and train poll watchers. Non-party poll watchers should be recruited and trained to observe the voting process. The effort should begin now so that enough volunteers can be recruited and be ready to be assigned to the various polling and counting stations when the next elections are called.

“Most importantly, a structurally independent election authority should be established to conduct all electoral work and processes.”

~ Asian Network for Free Elections
which observed the 2006 elections

Raise awareness. The reform agenda must necessarily include raising awareness among Singaporeans on the importance of revamping our horrendous election rules and procedures. This should start with the various communities such as university students, women’s groups, NGOs, etc and then reaching out to the general public. Such an activity is needed in order to gain public support for the reform effort.

“Opposition parties had to confront several obstacles that impeded their ability to participate effectively in the political process…The challenges to Singapore’s democratic activists include: changing the electoral rules so that opposition parties can compete on a level playing field…”

~ National Democratic Institute
which observed the 2001 elections

Seek support from bloggers. The blogging community can play an active role in the campaign. Calls should be made to bloggers to help disseminate information about the problems about elections in Singapore and effort to institute changes.

Seek international observers. Effort must be made to raise the profile of flawed elections in Singapore. Organisations like the United Nations, Organisation for Security and Cooperation in Europe, the European Commission, International Federation for Election Systems, etc must be made aware of the situation here. They should also be encouraged to send teams to observe elections here.

Learn from overseas reform campaigns. Reform campaigners should learn from activists in other jurisdictions such as Hong Kong, Malaysia, Thailand, Indonesia, and so on about some of the activities undertaken and the effectiveness.

Engage the Prime Minister’s Office and the Elections Department. Even though the authorities would rather us disappear, a sustained effort must be made to meet with them and impress upon them the necessity and urgency for election reform.

The list is, of course, not exhaustive. The SDP would like to see a working committee established to identify other initiatives that may be needed as well as to carry out some of the activities mentioned above.

We will call for another meeting soon to coordinate this effort. If you did not sign up at the forum on Sunday, please email us at yoursdp.org

Watch video clips of Dr Chee’s forum presentation here (courtesy of watchtowerv)
[Part I], [Part II], [Part III]