The absence of a truly independent elections commission is a very serious weakness in Singapore's elections process and throws the whole process into question whether its free and fair.
Singapore votes on May 6 in its tenth general election since independence from Malaysia in 1965. Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong, son of the city-state's founding father, Lee Kuan Yew, faces his first real leadership test since his appointment in August 2004.
Here are key facts on Singapore politics.
- All candidates must be declared by Nomination Day, set for April 27. If only one party puts forward a candidate or group of candidates in a given constituency, that candidate or group automatically wins the corresponding seats in parliament.
* In the past three elections in 2001, 1997, and 1991 the ruling People's Action Party (PAP) won the election on nomination day after the opposition failed to put up candidates for more than half of the seats. In Nov. 2001, only a third of eligible voters had a chance to cast their ballot, as only 29 of 84 seats were contested. This time, the opposition is expected to contest more than half of the seats.
* The PAP has dominated parliament since independence. The tiny, fragmented opposition held only two of the 84 seats in the outgoing parliament, one each for the Workers' Party and the Singapore Democratic Alliance. Opposition parties had their best showing in 1991, when they won four seats in an 81-seat chamber.
* PAP leaders have sued many opposition politicians for defamation. The U.S. State Department says the threat of libel has crippled the opposition and stifled political activity. PAP leaders say the suits were necessary to protect their reputation.
* Election ballots are tagged with serial numbers which can be used to identify voters in the event of suspected election fraud. The PAP has said individual votes will not be traced.
* The Singapore government, which bars demonstrations and public speeches without permit, recently said it would ban podcasts and videocasts that carry political content. Existing laws require political parties and individuals to register if they wish to post political content on Websites.
* The prime minister is elected for a five-year term. There is no restriction on the number of terms a leader can serve.
* Some 2.1 million people, about half the population, are eligible to vote. Voting is mandatory for all aged 21 or above.
Sources and Relevant Links:
Reuters FACTBOX-Key facts and figures about Singapore elections 20 April 2006