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As far as the next general elections is concerned we know two things: That the elections will be held soon (probably by the end of this year) and, two, that the electoral boundaries have been redrawn. Yet, the PAP refuses to release the new boundaries.
It is not only a matter of fairness but also of huge importance that the opposition know of the boundaries early enough. This will facilitate our campaigning and coordination about where each party will contest. The PAP, on the other hand, has all the information thus presenting it with a big and unfair advantage.
There is no reason for the PAP to withold information about the redrawn boundaries except to cripple the opposition’s planning and campaigning. This is just one of the many dubious practices that the PAP has instituted to ensure “victory”.
It is also why the Singaporeans for Democracy’s (SFD) proposed report to the UN is so timely. The organisation has published on its website that it will write a report to the UN’s Universal Periodic Review (UPR) on Singapore’s electoral system.
The UPR was set up in 2006 to review member countries’ human rights record once every four years. Singapore’s will come under review in 2011.
SFD Executive Director Dr James Gomez met with officials of the UN’s Office of the High Commissioner of Human Rights in Bangkok this past weekend and agreed that the SFD would submit a report on the electoral system in Singapore.
There are numerous practices that make election in this country highly unfair and unfree. The Singapore Democrats have repeatedly called for reform of the system. A public forum was held in January 2008 to discuss this matter. Among some of the changes needed are:
A longer campaign period. The current nine days is completely insufficient given that the election date is left completely in the hands of the prime minister. The campaign time is now further reduced with the introduction of the cooling-off day.
An independent election commission. Currently the elections process is controlled by the Prime Minister’s Office where decisions are made without transparency.
Timely announcement of the boundaries. As explained, the last minute release of redrawn and new constituencies make it infinitely harder for the opposition to plan our campaign.
Abolition of the Group Representation Constituencies (GRC) system. This arrangement gives the ruling party an upper-hand as it allows the PAP to field novice candidates under ministers’ wards. With its limited resources, the opposition is further hamstrung by this system.
A free and pluralistic media. With the broadcast and print media completely under the control of the PAP, election news and analysis are skewed to the party’s advantage.
The PAP must understand that its undemocratic ways may continue to let it “win” elections, but they are detrimental to the interests of Singapore. There are many things that the ruling party must do to arrest the slide, starting with the immediate release of the redrawn boundaries.