• 30 June 2020 •
  • Free downloads: Explore our GE Reading List  / More
  • New article: Damien Chng, Chong Ja Ian, Cherian George, Howard Lee and Netina Tan on social media manipulation / More
  • Webinar: Singapore's Pandemic Elections / More


Singapore's General Election on 10 July may have a broadly predictable outcome, but the way the campaign plays out as well as the final tallies will generate endless conversations — and months if not years of academic analysis. This newsletter, going out on Nomination Day, is dedicated to GE2020. We are especially happy to present 20 for 20: A GE Reading List of twenty book chapters and journal articles offering in-depth looks at Singapore's political system, its political parties, and past voting behaviour. Some are new publications, examining Singapore's democratic backsliding since GE2015, and the 4th Generation leadership, for example. Others are older but still highly relevant – like a 2011 article on why election rallies (banned this year) have been such a special part of Singapore's elections. We are delighted that their authors and publishers have made them available for free download, in support of Academia.SG's mission to bring scholarly research into the public sphere.
– Chong Ja Ian, Cherian George, Linda Lim & Teo You Yenn


Parties must assure voters of clean online conduct

This General Election will be the most internet-reliant in the republic’s history. It is also Singapore’s first since it became clear to the world that online tricks for manipulating public opinion have outstripped societies’ traditional defences against disinformation. Damien Chng, Chong Ja Ian, Cherian George, Howard Lee and Netina Tan — researchers in media studies, political science and law — explain why voters can’t count on existing regulations or internet giants to keep the online battle clean and fair. READ >   


These graphics – part of a series we produced as part of our voter education efforts – have been a hit on social media. They explain common tactics in negative campaigning. MORE >


Singapore's Pandemic Elections: What's at stake

Featuring: Chong Ja Ian (Harvard-Yenching Institute) | Elvin Ong (University of British Columbia) | Netina Tan (McMaster University) | Walid Jumblatt (Nanyang Technological University)

The full recording of our 21 June webinar.


Thanks to the authors and publishers for making these journal articles and book chapters available for free download. You can also view the list on our website. If you'd like to buy the books where the chapters came from, note that Ethos Books is offering a 20% discount for its entire elections collection. And, Routledge is offering Kenneth Paul Tan's Governing Global-City Singapore to Academia.SG readers at a 50% discount: type the code GC50 on checkout.


Democratic backsliding since GE2015 – Walid Jumblatt Abdullah | After GE2015, the PAP reverted to its familiar authoritarian stratagem. This was possible because of the absence of a strong and coherent opposition and genuine reformers within the ruling party.

  • Walid Jumblatt Abdullah (2020) “‘New normal’ no more: democratic backsliding in Singapore after 2015”, Democratization. doi: 10.1080/13510347.2020.1764940 – DOWNLOAD PRE-PRINT

How the PAP changed and didn’t between GEs 2011 and 2015 – Cherian George | The 2015 election underscored the PAP’s ability to respond to electoral setbacks but also showed a reluctance to address systemic faults.

  • Cherian George (2020) “Future-proofing the PAP,” pp.169-176 in Air-Conditioned Nation Revisited. (Singapore: Ethos Books).DOWNLOAD

The likely fourth PM faces challenges similar to the second – Cherian George | Heng Swee Keat is saddled with circumstances not of his own making.

  • Cherian George (2020) “4G and the 2 Shans,” pp.101-109 in Air-Conditioned Nation Revisited.(Singapore: Ethos Books).DOWNLOAD

Oxleygate and Singapore’s elite cohesion – Cherian George | The Lee Family feud tested Singapore’s uniquely strong establishment unity.

  • Cherian George (2020) “Elite Cohesion,” pp. 94-101 in Singapore, Incomplete: Reflections on a First World Nation’s Arrested Political Development. (Singapore: Woodsville News). DOWNLOAD

How Meet-the-People Sessions contribute to the PAP’s resilience – Elvin Ong | The ruling party’s constituency service through MPSs help compensate for the weaknesses of other authoritarian institutions, just entrenching Singapore’s authoritarian system.

  • Elvin Ong (2015) “Complementary Institutions in Authoritarian Regimes: The Everyday Politics of Constituency Service in Singapore,” Journal of East Asian Studies, 15: 361-390.DOWNLOAD

GE2015 showed that the PAP’s ideology of pragmatism still dominates – Terence Lee | After 2011, the PAP identified and responded to its failures. The PAP also benefited from the LKY Effect and SG50.

  • Terence Lee (2015) “The Pragmatics of Change Singapore’s 2015 General Election,” pp. 9-25 in Change in Voting: Singapore’s 2015 General Election, edited by Terence Lee & Kevin YL Tan (Singapore: Ethos Books).DOWNLOAD

Why election rallies matter – Terence Chong | Banned in 2020, election rallies are political performances alien to other spaces like the mainstream media or public forums where thick decorum and practiced deference conspire to neutralise the visceral and intuitive.

  • Terence Chong (2011) “Election Rallies: Performances in Dissent, Identity, Personalities and Power”, in Voting In Change: The Politics of Singapore, edited by Terence Lee & Kevin YL Tan (Singapore: Ethos Books). – DOWNLOAD


What we can gather from the opposition’s first thirty years in Parliament – Loke Hoe Yeong | Singapore’s post-independence opposition has a history of ups and downs that doesn’t conform with theories about democratic waves.

  • Loke Hoe Yeong (2019) “Introduction,” pp. i-xi in The First Wave: JBJ, Chiam & the Opposition in Singapore (Singapore: Epigram Books). – DOWNLOAD

Explaining opposition party cooperation – Elvin Ong | Drawing on the literature on the bargaining model of war, Ong explains opposition coordination in GE2015, focusing on the conflict between the Workers’ Party and the National Solidarity Party.

  • Elvin Ong (2016) “Opposition Coordination in Singapore’s 2015 General Elections,” The Round Table, 105(2): 185-194, doi: 10.1080/00358533.2016.1154385DOWNLOAD

Why the Workers’ Party has succeeded where others failed – Elvin Ong and Mou Hui Tim | Opposition parties face a “credibility gap” that WP has dealt with better than others.

  • Elvin Ong and Moh Hui Tim (2014) “Singapore’s 2011 General Elections and Beyond: Beating the PAP at its Own Game,” Asian Survey, 54(4): 749-772. DOWNLOAD


New online falsehoods law and what it says about the future – Cherian George | POFMA indicates that the next generation of PAP leaders are content to retain their governance model.

  • Cherian George (2020) “The Dogma behind POFMA,” pp.177-186 in Air-Conditioned Nation Revisited. Singapore: Ethos Books). DOWNLOAD

Complex electoral manipulation is aided by voter apathy – Elvin Ong | The absence of simple electoral malpractice conceals other forms of manipulation, such as redistricting, which are not perceived by the electorate as violating the democratic principles.

  • Elvin Ong (2018) “Electoral manipulation, opposition power, and institutional change: Contesting for electoral reform in Singapore, Malaysia, and Cambodia,” Electoral Studies, 54: 159-171. doi: 10.1016/j.electstud.2018.05.006.DOWNLOAD

Why Singapore needs an independent election management body – Netina Tan | The redrawing of constituency boundaries have sparked allegations of gerrymandering. The process calls for non-partisan technical experts, statisticians or judges.

  • Netina Tan (2015) “Pre-Electoral Malpractice, Gerrymandering and its Effects on Singapore’s 2015 GE,” pp. 169-190 in Change in Voting: Singapore’s 2015 General Election, edited by Terence Lee & Kevin YL Tan (Singapore: Ethos Books). DOWNLOAD

How the PAP has shaped the parliamentary system – Kenneth Paul Tan | It has innovated on the Westminster model to balance representation and effectiveness, while legitimising and strengthening its authoritarian rule.

  • Kenneth Paul Tan (2013) “The Singapore Parliament: Representation, Effectiveness, and Control,” pp. 27-46 in Parliaments in Asia: Institutional Building and Political Development, edited by Zheng Yongnian, Lye Liang Fook, Wilhelm Hofmeister. (Routledge). – DOWNLOAD


Votes are tied mainly to perceptions of party credibility – Steven Oliver & Kai Ostwald | The PAP has used its dominant position to reshape voter preferences in line with its comparative advantages.

  • Steven Oliver and Kai Ostwald (2018) “Explaining Elections in Singapore: Party Resilience and Valence Politics,” Journal of East Asian Studies, 18 (2): 129-156. doi: 10.1017/jea.2018.15. – DOWNLOAD PRE-PRINT.

GE2015 left the dominant party system intact – Kenneth Paul Tan | The PAP’s strong performance bucked the recent trend, showing the durability of its substantial performance legitimacy

On “freak elections” and suspicious “bookies predictions” – Cherian George | Contrary to elites’ theories, Singapore electorate has been remarkably consistent in the way it uses its vote, but it can be manipulated by disinformation.

  • Cherian George (2017) “Freak elections,” pp.67-72 in Singapore, Incomplete: Reflections on a First World Nation’s Arrested Political Development. (Singapore: Woodsville News). – DOWNLOAD

What happened to the “new normal” post-2011 – Lam Peng Er | Explaining the dramatic swing back to the PAP between the 2011 and 2015 elections.

  • Lam Peng Er (2015) “New Normal Or Anomaly? 2015 General Election and PAP’s Electoral Landslide,” pp. 246-264 in Change in Voting: Singapore’s 2015 General Election, edited by Terence Lee & Kevin YL Tan (Singapore: Ethos Books). – DOWNLOAD

What influenced voters in GE2015 – Bridget Welsh | Singaporeans wanted a stronger opposition, but were divided on the opposition’s performance in Parliament and at the grassroots.

  • Bridget Welsh (2015) “GE2015 Survey: Post-Election Insights on Voting in Singapore.” (Slides) – DOWNLOAD

What Singaporeans want from the opposition – Cherian George | Voting patterns show Singaporeans want more opposition as a check on the PAP, not to bury it.

  • Cherian George (2020) “Opposing a dominant party,” pp. 113-121 in Air-Conditioned Nation Revisited (Singapore: Ethos Books, 2020) – DOWNLOAD.
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