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Singapore Parliamentary Maths 101

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The pertinent numbers that may be distilled from the 7 May 2011 Singapore General Election are as follows:

60:40 = 81:6

Representing 60% voted PAP and 40% voted Opposition. This result in turn translates into a reality of 81 MPs for the PAP versus 6 opposition (WP) MPs who would be in Parliament for the next few years until the next GE.

They would be sworn in soon by the President of the Republic.

The representation ratio for PAP MP works out to be one MP to 0.74% of voters. And in the case of the opposition, the MP to voters ratio works out to be one MP for every 6.67% of the voters – a very lopsided 9 times difference when you consider that this is equivalent to having one PAP MP for every 14,481 voters for the PAP, versus one opposition MP  for every 130,333 voters who voted for the opposition.

If, 4-5 years down the road, at the next GE, the opposition parties were to work very hard and managed to double their tally to twice their present numbers, i.e. , 12 , with a corresponding increase of another 10% more voters (for the sake of illustration). This is no mean feat going by what all Singapore has just gone through in the just concluded GE. The representation in parliament would look sometime like this:

 50:50 = 75:12,  or some such figures

That is, 50% of voters who voted for the ruling party would be represented by 75 PAP MPs while the other 50% who voted for opposition candidates would be represented by a mere 12 opposition MPs. Rational? Logical?

Perhaps, this will be when the penny will drop, when sanity would reassert itself within the top ranks of the ruling party and the electorate.

It would also be no mean feat though if the PAP govt is able to still satisfactorily justify to the electorate (and also the rest of the world watching from the sideline) that it has in place an electoral system that is indeed fair, democratic and representative.   That everything is above-board. That the political participation field is level. That the routine changing of electoral-boundaries without fail just before every GE is dictated by nothing more innocent than a need  to ‘normalize’ the distribution of voters for practical and logistical reasons!  And the GRCs are the way to go!

This hypothetical scenario is not far fetched. If the current status quo remains unchanged for the next 4-5 years, there will be every possibility that something akin to  this may ipso facto very well materialize.


  1. […] & Losers (Part 2) – Project Lucy: GE 2011: Winners and Losers – Thetwophilo’s Blog: Singapore Parliamentary Maths 101 [Thanks yl] – Rachel Zeng: GE2011: Notable moments (Part 1) – De Leviathan @ SG: Post GE 2011 […]

  2. Nonlinear says:

    Your 101 is not quite right, I think. The relationship between votes share ratio and seats ratio is non-linear. You have over simplified it. When there is 50:50 votes share, it should translate to about 50%:50% seats, assuming all seats are contested. When the percentage votes share drops closer to 50% the number of seats swing will increase exponentially (i.e. by a large number).

    At 60% now, I believe it is a very strong negative signal. Once it drops below 60%, there will be a huge swing in the number of seats exchanged.

    • thetwophilo says:

      Thanks for your opinion. I wouldn’t say your point is not possible.

      My note was actually intended to be rhetorical more than anything else. No hard science involved! But having said that I don’t think you can really put a finger on it in any definite way given the numerous possibilities opened to the ruling party to ‘prepare’ during the next 4-5 years.

      Theoretically, if we frame a further 10% vote swing for the opposition using GE 2011 results it could net the opposition (mainly the WP) a further 24 seats. Totalling 30.

      However the proviso is that the PAP does nothing during this period, which is highly unlikely, whether by gerrymandering or with policies that massage the voters the right way . They would have learned for this GE and act accordingly. Opposition getting 30 seats effectively means PAP would lose control of parliament. Don’t think it would be allowed to happen!

      IMO, a 50% total vote share for the opposition without a significant increase in MPs is not impossible or improbable.

      • Nonlinear says:

        Thank you for your response and clarification.

        It will be a risky and even dangerous path for Singapore to take if there are any further unfair tactics or policies. We really do not know what kind of reaction any sense of injustice may trigger.

        This has been perhaps the most emotionally charged election we have had for decades. The feelings on both sides were strong – intense. Fairness must prevail as we as a nation move towards political maturity, or this may lead to even stronger emotions that may manifest itself as a threat the peace we have for so long. I don’t think any of us wants to go there!

        Already in Potong Pasir, rightly or wrongly, their sense of injustice has led some to try and pursue the matter further even when CST himself said it will not get anywhere. Thankfully, there was no ugly confrontation with the police eventually.

        We as a nation, certainly wants to see political maturity and move away from the one-party monopoly so that we can build a better home for our children. And as we move along, we must ensure that fairness prevails in our political arena and that we do not test the very intense emotion of the sense of injustice in people. And I think only then will all parties, winners and losers , accept the election outcomes peacefully – this, we must preserve.

      • thetwophilo says:


        I share your view on reaction to further unfair tactics or policies. I do see an increased danger of people taking the law into their own hands if they continued to be frustrated by a system perceived as unfair or unreasonable. Unfortunately, George Bush’s infamous ‘if you are not with me, you are against me’ brand of partisanship is very much in evidence during the recent hustings.

        People are emotional creatures. The younger generations of Singaporeans do not have the sort of ‘circumstantial conditioning’ and nurturing of their elderly parents or grand parents. The second world war is of little more than of an academic interest to them. Ditto, the brief Malaysian sojourn, the Indonesian Confrontasi and the race riots. Impossible really for any one to be able to vicariously live and experience the times of their elders. But, the here and now of pop culture, current and contemporary ideas and events strike home, inflame and seize the imagination. Vividly, persuasively, real and three-dimensional.

        Two extremely deplorable examples were set by MM Lee and Vivian Bala. So it’s not a matter of the grassroots or the foot soldiers creating trouble because of their base mentality, but Machiavellian plots hatched behind the scene to influence voting outcomes.

        Post-electoral defeat accolades have been showered on George Yeo, in praise of his ministerial skills, calibre and personal character by a bi-partisan group of admiring posters on the Internet, yet we are now receiving news of what is clearly deliberate acts of calculated and deliberate sabotage at Aljunied GRC Town Council by the outgoing PAP GRC team which he was leading – cleaners were dismissed at short notice, cleaning contracts abruptly terminated, rubbish left uncollected, and goodness knows what else. Shocking revelation of unethical behaviour of sore losers from the ruling Party. Time in office has no civilizing influence on the PAP office bearers. Ironically, this takes place barely days after an apology and a promise to ‘do better’ by PM Lee himself! As I have observed in my other blogs of this series, the PAP is a Janus-faced entity.

        IMO, the PAP may have planted the seeds for future internal disturbances and contention via an indiscriminate and over the top liberal immigration policy. Planted in the midst of Singaporean society is a critical mass of ‘new’ citizens that share little in common with local Singaporeans. And many of them are neither ‘docile’ or publicly reticent ( a rather denigrating and negative description often applied to locals). All of us must have had met, seen or heard examples of assertive, loud and rude China people or ‘upper-class’ Indians with their snooty mannerism and airs. You can even find them on the net, blogging about how they are god-send for the salvation of Singaporeans. The environment is pregnant with implications and ramifications of the uncertain and on occasion unpleasant kind, nowadays. Imagine, if one day they feel compelled or impelled enough to come together to pursue political ends or other objectives in line with their own interest. This is not being alarmist. Yet another dimension is their previous and continuing links and ties with their own kinds from the ‘motherland’.

        It is worthy of note that many of the citizens of foreign origins who were involved in a number of terrorism acts in the UK and the US have been traced to have such links or ties. There is a world of difference in all sorts of dimensions and areas between migrants of the 18th century and the present millennium.

        Quite frankly, I am not optimistic that the PAP can successfully change its spots over the short or medium term because the adjustments required are simply too great all round and the price too high. Hampering the process is the poor leadership material of incumbents. LKY is so last century and so senile that his irrelevance/irreverence has become poisonous because of his untouchable status. LHL, is weak as a leader and medically constrained. His propensity to ‘lead’ in absentia, to leave it to his lieutenants – like during Mas Selamat’s escape, the toxic investment losses of local investors, accountability issues over GIC and Temasek’s humongous loss of taxpayers’ funds, etc etc. don’t inspire confidence in people. His doublespeak did not help – at the beginning of the hustings he gave a qualified assurance that GST would not be increased ‘provided’. But, when the issue went viral and adversely, both he and Tharman (I think) have to re-state the issue with an unequivocal assurance that GST would not be increased in the next 5 years at least. (Let’s track how this issue would pan out in the coming months and years. But one thing is pretty certain, other avenues for indirect taxation could appear to replace it.)

        IMO, the PAP govt can, if it wants, to make life a little more breathable for the average folks. It has been tinkering too much for too long with the SPE factors of Singapore/Singaporeans. It has for a long time become smug, arrogant and complacent and to an appreciable degree has been in pursuit of an almost addictive, insatiable and mindless appetite for money, money and more money. In my opinion, it is this greed that allowed LKY and gang to be beguiled and seduced down the garden path by the purveyors of quick and easy profits; what the world now knows as ‘toxic investments’. For the LOVE of money is the root of all evils.


        Consider the possibility of boundaries drawn in such a manner that they circumscribed PAP-hostile electorate – confined and concentrated them into SMCs or small GRCs that would give away only a small numbers of seats to the opposition. That the PAP would go to great lengths to capture the greatest number of seats for itself is a fait accompli – I still recalled my double take one day when I saw this huge sign by the road in the Havelock area which read: Welcome to JALAN BESAR GRC/TOWN COUNCIL, or words to the effect. The key words being JALAN BESAR. What the hell is Jalan Besar doing on the Tiong Bahru side of Chinatown?! Of course, Serangoon residents would similarly retort about their status as a component of Marine Parade GRC. Where is the beach? is a standing joke among residents. Nothing, it seems, is too strange or impossible given the creativity of the PMO.

        I think for the moment, proportional representation and other more sophisticated options under consideration in western countries is not the remedy we need here. IMO, our cup of tea, should be no more and no less than a simple return to a SMC system of wards by putting the GRCs forever to rest and the setting up of an election dept that is independent of any influence of govt and political parties. The dept has to be completely transparent in all respects – staff selection, SOP, MO etc, and accountable and answerable directly to the Singapore people. And as some other bloggers have suggested a host of community and communal based entities like CCs, PA, RCs should be either dismantled, neutralized or depoliticized. Town Council and MP offices should be institutionalized as govt built and maintained infrastructures independent of political parties. At the change over of political party in charge, everything remains operational status quo for a period after takeover and re-negotiable under the new management.

      • Nonlinear says:

        Hi thetwophilo,

        I am too not optimistic that the leopard would change its spots. It has been their way of doing things for decades and it will be a lot for us to expect. They can say what they want about “transformation” and “soul searching”, but by saying it, no matter with how much conviction or with how much assurance, does not make it happen nor will it mean that it will happen. We shall have to wait and see.

        The saying that the “leopard will not change it’s spots” does have profound verity. I am not hopeful that the PAP will be able to transform itself. My hope though is that the political scene in Singapore will mature with good quality alternatives in years to come. And as stated in my earlier respond, this transition must be peaceful; this is something we really should not take for granted. But then, how civil the political evolution plays out depends not on us but to a very large extend on what the ruling party will do to try and retain control.

        I think, and I hope, this watershed election would inspire even more good men and women to step forward.

        :::::::::: Main Stream Media (a.k.a. State Media) and New Media
        The MSM, compared to the New Media appears to be doing a more effective job of their traditional pro-PAP journalism that has been subtle, implicative and indirect, which are more palatable to the neutral and perhaps to a certain degree, more convincing. That is something I hope the new media folks can learn. In contrast, the new media writers tend to be bold, direct, and even confrontation at times and that can come across as being excessively anti-establishment that can occasionally be a turn off. For instance, for a while some years ago, I find the the articles in TOC and TR a refreshing change from the usual stuff we get on the MSM. But after some time, some of it came across as a little too extreme. Just as some might find the MSM repulsive when they are clearly biased, the same can happen to the new media when it becomes overly biased.

        Extreme positions may be interesting reads from time to time, and the writer may invoke many commentaries from the die-hard supporters that can make the writers feel good. But to reach the middle ground, which essentially makes up the folks whom might be swayed one way or the other, the new media writers really need to adopt some of the subtlety of the MSM – I think.

        In any case, I personally feel that it is good that the new media has broken the MSM’s monopoly on what we all read, hear and view. We are all better informed now, a bit more excited by politics now, and we are a lot more interested now. Overall, this competitive media landscape is definitely more instructive and should in turn instill more interest amongst Singaporean in shaping our future together and this can only be good for Singapore.

        Gone are the days where only the few blessed souls at the MSM editor’s office are empowered to decide the fate of any one issue by giving it some publicity or to dumped it into complete obscurity. No more! They are nevertheless – still – the main-stream media, otherwise, how do we explain the government’s ignorance about the feeling on the ground? Seriously, I’m completely baffled by their ignorance of the depth of resentment until the GE campaign! Gosh! Where have they been all these time! What have their RCs, CCs, PA and official channels been doing all this while!

        ::::::::::: Immigrants – just as our forefather were
        With regards to new citizens, I think we need to be more discerning in the commentaries. We need to be careful not to stir any kind of hatred towards new immigrants. It is the policy that we should be voicing out against, and not targeting the immigrants.

        After all, let’s not forget that our very own forefathers were once new immigrants too. I hate to think that they were similarly scorned by the “locals” when they first arrived here.

        I know it’s not easy to make a distinction but I do hope at least the more learned folks will try. Even without coaxing, it is already quite natural for people to vent their anger due to shear frustration.

        In that respect, I would like to appeal to you as a responsible blogger to take some care in commentaries about immigrants, and try to make a clear distinction between them and the policy flaws that ought to be addressed – separately. In case this makes you curious, I spent quite a few years as a foreigner in a foreign land and no matter how much I tried to adapt to the local way of life then to fit in, deep down inside me, I was still different and I am still a Singaporean.

        :::::::::: The “best brains” have no idea how to manage economic growth without aggressive population growth?
        Economic growth needs to be sustained, that’s undeniable. Our resentment is that this appears to be the one and only thing the government cares about – which of course allowed for the self-justification of their fat bonus that they’ve rewarded themselves in the face of rising income disparity.

        Sadly, despite their self-proclaimed quality and their constant bragging about being the “best”, the government appears to have absolutely no idea how to sustain a healthy economic growth without the hard drive to boost the population numbers. They either have really no clue, or that they really do not care, or that they – quite simply – are just driven by their own remunerations! Either way, it’s bad news for ordinary Singaporeans!

        With our limited resources, yes, it is a challenge to sustain our economic growth. But they are paid millions to do their jobs and I hope they started working at it or our grand-children may have to live in a Singapore with 10million people! We are land scarce. We all know that. We do have to leave enough space for our children’s use.

        These are just my views. A view of an ordinary Singapore. I believe we do share some common views, and we may have different perspective on others. But that’s natural I suppose. Happy blogging!

  3. ElectoralSystem says:

    Agree with Nonliner, once the popular vote falls below 60% there would be exponential increase in electoral representation for the opposition. As thetwophilo pointed out, simple maths from the 2011 election show this would have increased the seat count to 30 or 34% of seats in parliament. However, also note that in the event of continued discontent with the incumbents the drop in popular votes may be more prominent in areas that already have <65% voting for the incumbent and less prominent in the incumbent strongholds, i.e. areas with <65% voting for incumbent. This would lead to even greater increases in seat counts for the opposition.

    Lastly, while the critique of the shifting of electoral boundaries is clearly valid. It would be difficult to institute an alternate electoral system. The recent example of the Alternate Vote Referendum in the UK shows the reluctance of electorates to deviate to more complex (but potentially more equitable) voting systems. http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/uk-politics-11243595

    My guess is that you would favour a multi-winner proportional representation system or a party-proportional representation system. While it overcomes many issues with a FPTP single winner system, this has significant issues of its own. http://www.columbia.edu/~of2152/documents/Shades_of_Brown_and_Green_Olle_Folke.pdf We wouldn't want parties with eccentric views having excessive power in our electoral system would we! Alas, these issues can fill thousands of political science journals.

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