Explaining Elections in Singapore: Dominant Party Resilience and Valence Politics
50 Pages Posted: 16 Jan 2017 Last revised: 9 Feb 2018
Date Written: February 9, 2018
The People's Action Party (PAP) of Singapore is one of the world's longest ruling dominant parties, having won every general election since the country's independence in 1965. Why do Singaporeans consistently vote for the PAP, contrary to the expectations of theories of democratization? We argue that valence considerations---specifically, perceptions of party credibility---are the dominant factor in the voting behavior of Singapore's electorate and a critical piece to the puzzle of the PAP's resilience. Furthermore, we argue that the primacy of valence politics arose in part by design, as the PAP has used its control of Singapore's high-capacity state to reshape society and thereby reshape voter preferences towards its comparative advantages. We use a multi-methods approach to demonstrate evidence in support of our argument through a within-case, historical analysis; a qualitative analysis of contemporary party competition and voter behavior; and a comprehensive quantitative analysis of the 2011 and 2015 general elections. Ultimately, our findings suggest that a focus on valence politics can increase the resilience of dominant parties, but that such a strategy also faces natural limits to the advantages it confers.
Keywords: Singapore, Elections, Electoral Competition, Political Parties, Voters, Voting Behaviour, Valence Politics, Dominant Party, Resilience
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