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The Republic of Singapore is an city-state and island-state at the southern end of the Malay Peninsula. With a territory of only 682.7 suare miles it would be considered a borderline micro-state but its population of 4.4 million is in the lower mid-range in population size and its large total Gross Domestic Product (GDP) of 120 billion (2004 estimate) makes it one of the mini-dragons of Southeast Asia. Per capita GDP is a high $27,800 (2004 estimate).



  • Chinese - 77.7%
  • Malay - 14.1%
  • Indian - 7.1%
  • other - 1.1%


The island of Singapore was first leased by the British East India Company from Malay rulers in 1819 to serve naval and commercial shipping between British colonial India and its growing trade in China. The island became a British Crown Colony (direct rule from London) in 1867. The island gained Home Rule in 1959 and then gained its indpendence from Britain as part of the Federation of Malaysia in 1963 but seceded to become the independent Republic of Singapore in 1965.

With Home Rule in 1959 the People's Action Party or PAP led by Lee Quan Yew emerged as the dominant political party in Legislative Council elections. The PAP had been formed in 1954 by a coalition of nationalist English speaking professionals and leftists in the public sector labor unions. Among its social democratic sounding election appeals were ending British colonial rule, eliminating unjust inequalities in wealth and opportunity and establishing democracy.

In 1961 the PAP leadership completed the purge when much of the party's leftists left in opposition to the plan to merge with neighboring Malaysia, some of whom then went on to organize the Barisan Socialis or Socialist Front. PAP leadership conducted a referendum which offered voters in Singapore a "non-choice" between three different forms of merger with Malaysia on the ballot but no option to oppose merger. The referendum without real choice won but Singapore was later ignomineuosly expelled from Malaysia. Many of the Socialist Front's leders were arrested and the organization weakened in the British colonial authorities' "Operation Cold Store". The obvious winner from this repression was Lee Quan Yew, rumoured to have been an agent of British Special Branch from the beginning. The suspicion that successful post-colonial anti-communist leaders were selected by former colonial authorities is common.

Parliamentary Elections

Singapore became independent in August 1965 and in the first election in 1968 the PAP won all 58 seats in the new parliament. Only 7 seats were contested by the opposition. The PAP also won every seat in parliament in the 1972, 1976 and 1980 elections. In 1981 the PAP lost one seat to the oppositon Workers' Party in the Anson by-election. In 1984 the PAP won 77 of 79 seats in parliament, losing one seat each to the Worker's Party in Anson and the Singapore Democratic Party in Potong Pasir. Up to this point in time all of the parliamentary seats had been filled in a electoral system featuring only single members district/plurality (First-Past-the-Post) contests.

That changed in 1988 with a strange electoral reform under which 39 seats in the parliament would be filled in multi-member (3 seat) district/plurality contests and 41 seats filled in single member district/plurality contests. The 3 seat districts were won by teams of 3 candidates who received the most votes in the district. In 1988 the PAP won 80 of 81 seats in parliament, losing one seat to the Singapore Democratic Party. In the 1991 election the PAP won 77 of 81 seats. In 1996 the three seat districts were changed to six seat districts and the number of seats filled was increased to 71. That reduced the number of seats filled in single member district/plurality races to only 9. In the 1997 election the PAP won 81 of 83 seats.

In the May 5, 2006 general elections, Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong led the PAP once again to inevitable victory, winning 82 of 84 seats in Parliament, including 37 uncontested seats.

Further Reading

  • Joseph B. Tamney. 1995, 1996. The Struggle Over Singapore's Soul: Western Modernization and Asian Culture. Berlin: Walter de Gruyter. ISBN 3110146983.
  • Carl A. Trocki. "Drugs, Taxes, and Chinese Capitalism in Southeast Asia," in Timothy Brook and Bib Tadashi Wakabayashi, ed.s, Opium Regimes: China, Britain, and Japan, 1839-1952. Berkeley: University of California Press. ISBN 0520222369. Pp. 79-104.
  • Carl Trocki. 1979. Prince of Pirates: The Temenggongs and the Development of Johor and Singapore, 1784-1885. Singapore: Singapore University Press.

Singapore in Fiction

  • On page 323 of Eric Nylund's 1998 science fiction novel Signal to Noise (Harper Collins, ISBN 0380792923), a future Singapore's 11 million population are killed by electromagnetic pulse (EMP) from a nuclear detonation. The EMP burns out their electronic brain implants. "An impenetrable cloud covered the island; ocean waves rolled out, a hunred meters tall, and crashed against the coast of Indonesia and Malaysia."



  • Alan Shadrake & Elizabeth Colman. "Hangman to Sue If Sacked." The Australian. November 30, 2005.
  • n.a. "Australia Official Seeks Mercy for Citizen." Associated Press. November 23, 2005.
  • Diane K. Mauzy. "Electoral Innovation and One-Party Dominance in Singapore," in John Fuh-Sheng Hsieh and David Newman, eds., How Asia Votes. New York: Chatham House Publishers. 2002. ISBN 1-889119415. Pp. 234-254.
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