Skip to main content
Election Strategy and Ethnic Politics in Singapore
Taiwan Journal of Democracy (2008)
  • Joel Fetzer, Pepperdine University

According to Minister Mentor Lee Kuan Yew, Singapore's electoral system is essentially representative and does not suffer from significant ethnic conflict. Opposition leaders, however, denounce legislative elections as unfair and claim that Singapore's ethnic minorities disagree politically with the Chinese-dominated People's Action Party (PAP). This essay aims to test both of these hypotheses empirically, using freely available electoral and public-opinion data. Logistic regression of the 1968-2006 parliamentary election results by constituency indicates that the PAP government did create Group Representation Constituencies in 1988 so as to eliminate districts that had voted disproportionately for the opposition in 1984. Analysis using Gary King's method of ecological inference suggests that ethic polarization between Chinese and Malays was moderately high in the 1976 election, peaked in 1988, and was minimal in 2006. Indians, meanwhile, appear to have voted with the Chinese in all three elections. A parallel cross-sectional, logistic regression of the 2002 Singapore subset of the World Values Survey, however, has Indian respondents being slightly less likely to admit to dissatisfaction with the government and indicates that being Malay does not make one more willing to express such dissatisfaction. These empirical results thus cast doubt on the extent to which Singapore's elections have been truly free, fair, and devoid of ethnic tension. The findings also suggest that young, middle-class, highly educated Chinese have replaced working-class Malays as the greatest challenge to continued PAP dominance.

  • Election Strategy,
  • Ethnic Politics,
  • Singapore,
  • People's Action Party (PAP)
Publication Date
Citation Information
Joel Fetzer. "Election Strategy and Ethnic Politics in Singapore" Taiwan Journal of Democracy Vol. 4 Iss. 1 (2008)
Available at: