Singapore’s December 1992 by‐elections: Interpreting the results and the signals

19 December, 2017

Was Singapore’s 1992 by-election an unexpected landslide?

The 1992 Marine Parade by-election on 19 December saw the incumbent People’s Action Party (PAP) contest against the Singapore Democratic Party (SDP), the National Solidarity Party (NSP), and the Singapore Justice Party (SJP). The results showed that the PAP won a higher-than-expected 72.9% of the votes. Assoc. Prof. Hussin Mutalib (formerly from the Dept of Political Science), sought to explain the PAP’s winning margin, noting that from the outset, the by-election did not generate much excitement because no new issues were brought up.

One reason Prime Minister Goh Chok Tong had called for it was to allow popular opposition figure Joshua Benjamin Jeyaretnam, who had been suspended from the 1991 General Elections, to contest. However Jeyaretnam’s team failed to submit their nomination papers and the opposition parties stuck to their usual script emphasizing the importance of having stronger oppositional parliamentary presence to keep the government in check while the PAP promised more municipal benefits.

Mutalib also explains that the PAP’s campaign strategy was successful. The by-election was framed as though it were a General Election and since PM Goh was a popular personality in the Marine Parade constituency having served there since 1976, voters, being practical-minded, would not consider voting the PM out of office.

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