(Update: Changed the post title. Malvina Reynolds would’ve got a real kick out of Singapore.)
Welcome to the wonderful world of electioneering in Singapore.
The seat of Potong Pasir is one of the few seats in Singapore that’s held by an opposition party member. (Coincidentally, Potong Pasir is also one of the few “single member constituencies”, which means it only has one MP – as opposed to “group representative constituencies” that have five or six members of parliament representing them. I’m just saying.)
And because it’s held by the opposition party, Potong Pasir is getting the shaft from the ruling People’s Action Party:
As a longtime resident of opposition-held Potong Pasir constituency, PAP member A.K. Lakshmanan wondered if the ruling party had ‘abandoned’ the constituency after losing again at the 2006 general election. [Lakshmanan] said adjacent PAP-held wards were ‘fantastic and marvellous’ compared to his estate.
The vast majority of Singaporeans – about 80% – own and live in government-built subsidised housing, supplied by the Housing Development Board (HDB). So when the government upgrades your HDB block, the value of your apartment goes up – which is a Good Thing.
And the government decides where those upgrades go.
In most countries (I’m looking at you, Australia), the government of the day would throw money toward marginal seats to try and swing them (and Potong Pasir is pretty marginal – a 5% swing, not much in a seat with just 15,000 voters, would make it change hands). In Singapore, though, the government sends the HDB upgrade money to safe seats to reward them for voting the right way. Quoth Wikipedia:
In the 2006 General Elections, the PAP promised extensive upgrading for Potong Pasir estate if Sitoh Yi Pin got elected as MP for the seat of Potong Pasir. However, Chiam won for the 6th consecutive term by a larger margin compared to the 2001 General Election.
Bribing voters like this isn’t really anything new. But this quote from Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong shows just how differently things work here:
While there is the need to look after those in Potong Pasir who voted for the PAP, the party must be careful not to be taken advantage of, he said, recalling the 2006 election.
Compare and contrast with Our Mate Kev (and I’m sure Barack Obama’s said something along these lines at some point):
“We will be a government for all Australians and I will always govern in the national interest.”
If nothing else, you have to give Lee Hsien Loong credit for being honest.