singapore - PSCI 2011 Singapore Authoritarianism of the...

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PSCI 2011 Singapore: Authoritarianism of the Political Elite The country of Singapore stands as a perplexing example of a developing country with a flawed political system. The biggest challenge facing the South East Asian island nation is not a struggling economy or widespread social deficiencies in household incomes or education. With a GNI per capita of USD$29,000 Singaporeans actually live quite well by many Western standards and exceedingly better than their neighbors in South East Asia. According to the World Bank, the Singaporean population enjoys good living standards with a high life expectancy of roughly 80 years, an adult literacy rate above 90%, and low infant mortality rates. Following colonial independence from Britain in 1959, Singapore has been able to economically succeed to become one of the fastest growing countries in Asia, otherwise known as a “Little Dragon.” Yet, Singapore's biggest problem is the government. Since 1959 the People's Action Party (PAP) has dominated politics to the extent that Singapore's government has become effectively authoritarian. The flagrant abuses of the government to restrict civil liberties stands as the single greatest barrier between Singapore becoming a true democracy. Although Singapore operates under democratic principles, by Western standards the country can be characterized as a civil authoritarian government. Ostensibly, the government operates under a British modeled hybrid system with a parliament and prime minister as well as a directly elected president. Functionally, however, the government operates under the authority of PAP members in office. In Singapore a partisan political environment does not exist and opposition parties have never gained much power. When members of opposition parties have gained seats in government office, such as the Worker's Party's J. B. Jeyaretnam's ascendancy to
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parliament in 1981, the PAP has been notorious in removing, imprisoning, or exiling such opposition in order to consolidate their control in government (Haas, 26). To do this, the government under the PAP has taken to flagrant abuses of procedural rights. Elections for members of Parliament are elected in generally free and popular elections, yet there are no democratic controls over the removal of seated members (Haas, 171). Also, the PAP parliament has an advantage in calling for elections. The government can call for new elections with only ten days notice, leaving opposition candidates unprepared.
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