chapter  8
26 Pages

Oppositional groups in Singapore: contention denied

In this chapter, we turn our attention to oppositional groups in Singapore, which share with Hong Kong’s opposition the desire for stability and prosperity but which, in contrast, have largely been unable and sometimes even unwilling to directly challenge the regime. Moreover, due to a lack of confrontation and contentious politics, there has not been any significant pressure for further democratization of the political system. Singapore is not known for its lively politics; on the contrary, a single-party

ruling elite has dominated much of modern Singaporean history. As Chapter 6 demonstrates, the government has successfully depoliticized Singapore’s society. However, since the 1980s, with the first election of an opposition politician, Singaporean politics has experienced the return of a small and disunited, yet sometimes assertive, oppositional movement. Contrary to Huff’s (1999) opinion, there has been significant political change in Singapore, even if the city-state has not developed toward greater democratization. This chapter will explore the organization of the opposition, how its per-

ceptions of the government and the society in which it lives shape its behavior, and what goals and tactics the opposition has used to influence the political system. This will show that the government has been successful in defining the dominant discourse in which the opposition has to act. The prevailing fear of the government and the emphasis on stability have significantly weakened the opposition. Furthermore, without a truly revolutionary goal, the opposition has been limited to propagating idealistic values such as democracy and freedom. Finally, divergent tactics have led to serious disagreements between oppositional groups, which has resulted in a very fragmented democracy movement.