ANFREL: “What’s going on in Singapore?”, a webinar held on 5 July 2020

6 July 2020

Watch a replay of the 5 July 2020 webinar ‘What’s going on in Singapore’, hosted by ANFREL – Asian Network for Free Elections. MARUAH’s Secretary, Braema Mathi and PJ Thum of New Naratif were panellists for this webinar.

Please click on screen shot below to view the video in Facebook.

General Election 2020: Academic Insights

30 June 2020

As we head towards the end of Nomination Day here in Singapore, we thought to share with our readers an excellent email resource provided by AcademiaSG.

Please visit this link to access AcademiaSG’s latest email (30 June) which provides more academic views and articles for you to read on Singapore’s elections.

Foreword by AcademiaSG’s editors

Singapore’s General Election on 10 July may have a broadly predictable outcome, but the way the campaign plays out as well as the final tallies will generate endless conversations — and months if not years of academic analysis. This newsletter, going out on Nomination Day, is dedicated to GE2020. We are especially happy to present 20 for 20: A GE Reading List of twenty book chapters and journal articles offering in-depth looks at Singapore’s political system, its political parties, and past voting behaviour. Some are new publications, examining Singapore’s democratic backsliding since GE2015, and the 4th Generation leadership, for example. Others are older but still highly relevant – like a 2011 article on why election rallies (banned this year) have been such a special part of Singapore’s elections. We are delighted that their authors and publishers have made them available for free download, in support of Academia.SG’s mission to bring scholarly research into the public sphere.
– Chong Ja Ian, Cherian George, Linda Lim & Teo You Yenn

Please click here to subscribe to AcademiaSG’s mailing list.

APHR: “Singapore election: neither free nor fair, new report says” – 18 June 2020

19 June 2020

ASEAN Parliamentarians for Human Rights (APHR) released a report “In Singapore, an Already Unfair Vote Undermined by COVID-19” on Thursday, 18 June 2020.

This report documents structural flaws that potentially prevent elections from being free and fair in Singapore. On page 22 of the report, APHR also makes certain recommendations to safeguard Singaporeans’ right to a free and fair election. These include:

  • Give significantly longer notice for election dates and more campaigning time to ensure an equal electoral competition and for voters to make their opinions;
  • Replacing the GRC system with one that ensures better respect for the principle of “one person, one vote”;
  • Immediately amend or repeal all laws that restrict the rights to freedom of expression, and peaceful assembly in Singapore; and
  • Delay the general election unless additional measures are taken to: ensure all eligible voters are able to vote, including the sick and those abroad; and ensure that opposition parties are able to campaign on an equal footing with PAP.

For more information on APHR’s findings and recommendations, please visit and

Electoral Integrity in the 2018 American Elections (PEI-US-2018)

25 June 2019

From Electoral Integrity Project

This report provides an assessment of the performance of all 50 states + DC in the 2018 U.S. midterm elections, compared with the 2016 contest. It applies the expert survey methods used since 2012 by the Electoral Integrity Project to measure and compare the quality of contests around the world.

The team of researchers is composed by Professor Pippa Norris, (Director of EIP Harvard/Sydney), Holly Ann Garnett (Royal Military College, Canada), and Max Grömping (Heidelberg University).


Electoral administration in the US has become increasingly partisan and litigious ever since Bush v. Gore in Florida in the 2000 Presidential elections (Hason 2012). Questions have arisen concerning the security, integrity, inclusiveness, convenience, and accuracy of the registration and balloting processes in America.

These issues were documented in the bipartisan Presidential Commission on Electoral Administration, established by President Obama (Bauer and Ginsberg 2014). The Commission reported that contemporary standards of electoral administration were highly uneven across the country.  It recommended a series of practical reforms to the election process.

The Elections Performance Indexconducted in 2014 by the Pew Center and in 2016 by MIT’s Election Data + Science Lab also suggest that states varies in how they performed against a range of quality indicators in the presidential and the mid-term contests.
In  2016,  a range of problems arose during the campaign and on polling day, some trivial, others more serious.  Throughout the 2016 presidential election campaign, Donald Trump warned about the risks of widespread fraud, claiming afterwards that millions of votes were cast illegally. The security services reported how the Democratic National Committee computer server was hacked and materials distributed through Wikileaks. In addition, social media were awash with trolls disseminating fake news, misinformation and disinformation (Jamieson 2019). The intelligence community and the Mueller Report subsequently concluded that the culprits were Russian. This led to widespread concern prior to polling day in the 2018 midterm elections that contests remained vulnerable to these security risks, as well as the challenges posed by fake news, voter suppression, partisan gerrymandering and voter fraud. In 2018 Congress allocated additional funds and the Department of Homeland Security cooperated closely with election officials in many states to tighten the security of official registration and voting records.

Moreover the Brennan Center documented how states also introduced many changes to the complex legal framework governing the mosaic of American election procedures. Some states facilitated easier and more convenient processes for citizens, such as ‘automatic’ registration, but others sought to tighten voting security through stricter voting requirements. As argued elsewhere (Norris, Cameron and Wynter 2019), electoral laws in America are seen through a strongly partisan lens, but there are potential bipartisan reforms which can strengthen both inclusion and security, these are not necessarily trade-offs, thereby strengthening public confidence in the process.

On polling day in November 2018, how did state elections perform? Were there improvements in the quality of the voter experience when casting ballots? What evidence allows us to monitor changes over time in each state?

For more details, please visit Electoral Integrity Project’s website at .

Perceptions of Electoral Integrity (“PEI”) 7.0 Worldwide Report & Data Set

25 June 2019

From Electoral Integrity Project

Elections should provide opportunities for citizens to participate in politics and hold leaders to account.  When they work well, elections can deepen civic engagement, inform public debate, stimulate party competition, strengthen government responsiveness, and allow the peaceful resolution of political conflict.

The problem is that too often contests fail to achieve these objectives. To assess global trends, the Perceptions of Electoral Integrity expert survey monitors elections worldwide and regionally, across all stages of the electoral cycle.

This report describes the Perceptions of Electoral Integrity dataset (PEI-7.0). The dataset is drawn from a rolling survey of 3,861 expert assessments of electoral integrity across 337 elections in 166 countries around the world.  The cumulative study covers all national presidential and parliamentary elections from July 1, 2012 to December 31, 2018. This annual release adds 53 presidential or parliamentary contests held during 2018.  

Perceptions of electoral integrity are measured by experts in each country one month after polls close. Experts are asked to assess the quality of national elections on eleven sub-dimensions: electoral laws; electoral procedures; district boundaries; voter registration; party registration; media coverage; campaign finance; voting process; vote count; results; and electoral authorities. These items sum to an overall Electoral Integrity Index scored from 0 to 100.  Additional batteries of items are used to monitor specific problems each year. Given widespread concerns about the issue of fake news, online disinformation, and foreign meddling, the 2018 survey focused on issues of campaign media.

For more details, please visit Electoral Integrity Project’s website at .

Sampling Check results to be publicly released

2 September 2015

The Elections Department will be publicly releasing the results of the sampling check conducted during counting of votes. Sampling checks have been conducted in past elections but this is the first time that ELD will be releasing the results to the public and to candidates.

MARUAH has written to the media and to ELD in the past asking it to either stop the practice or to release the results to the candidates. ELD’s disclosure of the results and procedures used for the sampling check increase the transparency and fairness of Singapore’s election process.

Letter to ELD on electoral procedures and negative campaigning

28 August 2015

28 August 2015

Mr Lee Seng Lup
Head, Elections Department
11, Prinsep Street
Singapore 187949

Dear Mr Lee,

We wrote to you on 14 August requesting for a meeting and to offer MARUAH as independent, non-partisan election observers. To date we are awaiting a response from your office.

Following the GE in 2011, we also wrote to you in May 2011, on the issue of voting dilemmas for people who were visually handicapped. We are grateful that you have since introduced voting aids to enable visually-handicapped voters to mark their ballot papers independently.

In 2013, another issue that we raised with you was the design of the polling booth. In MARUAH’s 2011 post-election survey, a number of respondents felt that there was insufficient privacy when marking their ballots. MARUAH suggested that screens, three-corner partition booths or curtains be used to ensure the secrecy of the vote. We hope that this will be implemented in GE2015.

Given that the GE2015 will be held very shortly, MARUAH looks forward to working with the Elections Department to ensure that our polls are held in a free and fair manner at all levels of the electoral process. MARUAH has listed below a few areas that the Elections Department needs to pay urgent attention to.

Security of ballot boxes
We note the change in election procedures, as described in the Handbook for Parliamentary Election Candidates 2015, to allow one polling agent for each candidate or group of candidates to be present on the bus used to transport ballot boxes from polling stations to counting centres. This is a welcome move and will help to strengthen Singaporeans’ confidence in the integrity of the election process.

Allowing one polling agent for each candidate or group of candidates to sign ballot boxes at time of sealing (instead of only being allowed to place a seal on the box)before they are moved to the counting centres, will make it easier for candidates to verify the chain of custody of electoral materials. It would be helpful for ELD to clarify whether the seals and signatures used by polling agents during sealing of ballot boxes may include elements of candidates’ logos, symbols or names, or whether the seals are included in the general prohibition of election advertising within polling stations.

Re-entry cards for polling agents and counting agents

Re-entry cards for polling agents and counting agents were used in the 2011 Presidential Election and 2012 by-elections to facilitate the taking of breaks by candidates’ agents, and re-entry procedures were spelt out in the candidates’ handbooks for those elections. We observe that re-entry procedures are not described in the 2015 Candidates’ Handbook. Nonetheless, we hope that re-entry cards for polling and counting agents will continue to be used and that the procedure(s) will be explicitly described in any Guides for Polling Agents and Counting Agents that may be published for GE2015. Consistency in approaches has to be part of the processes that we need.

Sampling Check

The Candidates’ Handbook (p 42) states that the purpose of the sampling check is to help election officials check against final count results. ELD should clarify whether any persons besides elections officials receive data from the sampling check prior to the official announcement of results for that electoral division by the Returning Officer. If any such disclosures are made, they should be made simultaneously to all candidates, for example, by the ARO announcing the results of the sampling check over the table at the time that the check is performed. We feel that this is the best way to ensure consistency and be transparent.

Adjudication of uncertain ballots

While the ARO on the ground must make the final decision in adjudicating any uncertain ballots, it would be helpful for ELD to publish the examples that it uses in training AROs so that counting agents and the public will better understand the thought processes and the criteria used to reject or accept a ballot. There have been instances in the past where disputes have arisen (examples of such incidences in 2011 have been written about on the Yawning Bread website and letters from the Singapore Democratic Party) and we can avoid this for GE 2015.

New restrictions on speakers at election meetings

The new rules prohibiting leaders of a political party from speaking at rallies organised by other parties is deplorable. There is no plausible reason for the rules on grounds of public order or safety. This rule is a gross violation of Singaporeans’ right to free speech. The rules will severely cripple a specific group of candidates from the Democratic Progressive Party and the Singapore People’s Party, who have come
together to put forward a collaborative challenge to the contestants from the ruling party of the People’s Action Party. We contend that this is unfair to the two opposition parties. While this rule was apparently made for a short-term political purpose, it has long-term implications in that it creates a barrier by administrative fiat to the establishment of coalitions between political parties in Singapore despite the fact that there is no constitutional or statutory basis for doing so.

Campaigning and Ethical Practices

We cite the recent case of Workers’ Party’s candidate Dr Daniel Goh who came under attack through an anonymous letter that he was having an affair. What concerns us is the approach taken by the media houses – Singapore Press Holdings and MediaCorp – to publicise the letter and generate stories. How do these practices resonate with what ELD has given as guidelines in (page 21 and 22) and also in Section 10.1(d) & (e) on page 56? We believe these guidelines are targeted at political parties for them to observe ethical practices, maintain a fair discourse in terms of “public interest” and to prevent deterioration into ‘gutter politics’. We ask ELD what are the guidelines for media houses, including on registered online ones.

MARUAH fully recognises that holding General Elections is a difficult exercise. However, MARUAH remains hopeful that the Elections Department will be willing to accept our assistance to ensure that free and fair elections with a high level of decorum do take place in Singapore.

We look forward to hearing from you shortly and we would like you to note that as a matter of public interest we will place this letter on our website.

Yours Sincerely,
Braema Mathi and Ngiam Shih Tung
Co-chairpersons of MARUAH Election Watch

About MARUAH Singapore
MARUAH is a human rights NGO based in Singapore.

“Maruah” means “dignity” in Malay, Singapore’s national language. Human rights is fundamentally about maintaining, restoring and reclaiming one’s dignity, and MARUAH strives to achieve this by working on national and regional human rights issues. MARUAH is also the Singapore focal point of the Working Group for an ASEAN Human Rights Mechanism, which is officially recognised in the ASEAN Charter as an entity associated with ASEAN.

More information on MARUAH at

MARUAH launches survey on polling experience in GE2011

5 May 2011

As part of MARUAH’s election watch project in relation to GE2011, MARUAH seeks to validate that the polling process is indeed conducted in a free and fair manner, with voters feeling secure that their votes are secret.

MARUAH had previously requested the Elections Dept permit MARUAH volunteers access to polling stations for this. As the Elections Dept has to date not responded, MARUAH is now asking for voters’ assistance in conducting this aspect of the project.

Specifically, we are asking all voters to complete an online survey on their experience in the polling stations. The survey should take less than 5 minutes to complete. The survey is also optimised for mobile phones, so that you can complete the survey on your phone immediately after voting!

It is important to read the survey form before going to vote, so that you will know what to look out for in the polling station. You can find the survey form at:

Read the rest of this entry »

Your Vote is Your Voice

3 May 2011

Is my vote really secret?

That is the question on many Singaporeans’ minds. As part of our public education efforts, MARUAH has produced a video to explain to voters why their vote really is secret.




This video was put together by a team of volunteers. For the first time on video, Singaporeans from different walks of life come together to speak about their voting experiences. A former Straits Times journalist who had witnessed the actual destruction of the ballot papers from the 2006 General Elections also speaks about what he saw.

The video explains the voting process, and what happens to ballot papers after they are counted.

Read the rest of this entry »

MARUAH media monitoring: Day 3 (30 April 2011)

1 May 2011

MARUAH is conducting an election watch project. Part of this project includes monitoring the election coverage by the mainstream media, specifically the Straits Times, TODAY and The New Paper. (We are unable to cover the other languages and other media, e.g. TV and radio, because of resource constraints.)

Our findings on Day 3 are set out below. You can also download all of the findings as a PDF file.

Coverage of each party (in column inches)

Positive photos of each party

Neutral photos of each party

Negative photos of each party

Placement of each party in the paper