Country: Canada (Ontario)
Comparative Political Institutions
Elections, Election Administration, and Voting Behavior
Political Parties and Interest Groups
Representation and Electoral Systems
Gender and Politics
Democratization And Authoritarianism
In Singapore, the percentage of elected female politicians rose from 3.8 percent in 1984 to 22.5 percent after the 2015 general election. After years of exclusion, why were gender reforms adopted and how did they lead to more women in political office? Unlike South Korea and Taiwan, this paper shows that in Singapore party pragmatism rather than international diffusion of gender equality norms, feminist lobbying, or rival party pressures drove gender reforms. It is argued that the ruling People's Action Party's (PAP) strategic and electoral calculations to maintain hegemonic rule drove its policy u-turn to nominate an average of about 17.6 percent female candidates in the last three elections. Similar to the PAP's bid to capture women voters in the 1959 elections, it had to alter its patriarchal, conservative image to appeal to the younger, progressive electorate in the 2000s. Additionally, Singapore's electoral system that includes multi-member constituencies based on plurality party bloc vote rule also makes it easier to include women and diversify the party slate. But despite the strategic and electoral incentives, a gender gap remains. Drawing from a range of public opinion data, this paper explains why traditional gender stereotypes, biased social norms, and unequal family responsibilities may hold women back from full political participation.
This article examines the effects of ethnic quotas on women’s political representation in Singapore. The 1988 electoral reform requires at least one minority ethnic candidate to be fielded in the multimember constituencies based on the party list plurality bloc vote system. Based on elite interviews, party publications and electoral data, this article argues that the increases in the district magnitude of the multimember constituencies have had the unintended effect of improving women’s political participation. More broadly, the article shows the conditions under which electoral rules shape behaviour and focuses on how the ruling party leaders in Singapore act as gatekeepers through centralised candidate selection methods that have a direct impact on legislative diversity.
The literature on electoral authoritarianism has drawn attention to the use of democratic electoral institutions for undemocratic gains. This paper adds to this body of work by showing how a sophisticated hegemonic party in Singapore manipulated its majoritarian electoral system to “manufacture” its legislative supermajority. By measuring the psychological and mechanical effects of the altered electoral system in Singapore, it shows how changes in the rules of the game boosted the incumbent's legislative dominance despite its declining vote shares in the late 1980s. It also offers new evidence to show how electoral manipulation create an uneven playing field with institutional constraints that penalize smaller parties and benefit the ruling, larger party.