Governance of a City-State
[The Angle] Tough for Independent candidates to make headway in the GE

It isn’t a very happy record for independent candidates.

One of the more successful independent candidates in the past was Mr Chia Shi Teck who stood in the Chua Chu Kang single member constituency in 1997.  He garnered 14% of the vote, better than the Democratic Progressive Party’s Mr Tan Soo Phuan with only 1.95%.  It was a four-way fight.

In 1991, a Mr Patrick Leong contested in Bukit Timah, in a three-way fight, and got only 1.63% of the votes there.

In 2001, a Mr Tan Kim Chuang stood as an independent candidate in a three-way contest for Bukit Timah SMC and got 4.9%. Mr Ooi Boon Ewe got 16.45% in Joo Chiat SMC against Mr Chan Soo Sen of the PAP.

Why was Mr Chia’s experience different? He had been a Nominated Member of Parliament from 1992 to 1994, before he stood as an independent candidate.  He was also recognised as a leader in business circles – at the time, Managing Director and later Chairman of Heshe Holdings.

So, unless one has been a leader in his or her sector, built up some national standing and profile, it is difficult to get on the radar of voters and do well.

Even the crowded space of opposition parties in this GE has made them realise that they have to work together and not split the vote if they want to make any headway in the electoral contest.

What we have not seen is anyone with a strong political track record in a formal political party drop out from it and then stand as an independent candidate.

Mr Tan Lam Siong was Secretary-General of the National Solidarity Party for only a very short period and unless he has been working earnestly on the ground in the constituency he wishes to contest, he may find it challenging to keep his deposit (a candidate needs 8% or more of the total number of votes in the constituency to do so).

But this is a democracy. Anyone who can afford the election deposit, feels that they have a point to make, and enough self-belief in the ability to move the ground, has the choice to stand as a candidate.  The ability to exercise that choice on the part of the individual and the level of contestation that we have nationally, will be good for our political system.

Dr Gillian Koh is a Senior Research Fellow at IPS. View her profile here.

Photo via EDMW Forum

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