Dear all,

Here is my proposal for a focus group on "Democracy in Singapore", for the Ethics Fellow for the Future program. I look forward to the feedback anyone may have.

Focus Group on “Democracy in Singapore”

“Authoritarian democracy” – that is the label some have for the state of democracy in Singapore. Singapore has established an international presence for its rapid economic development within a short history, but it is less admired for its lacklustre performance in terms of democratic reforms. According to founding father Lee Kuan Yew, “political reform need not go hand in hand with economic liberalisation”, but this conviction of the long-time leader of ruling party People’s Action Party (PAP) may not be shared amongst Singaporeans today. Consolidation of decision-making power in a single ruling party may have been effective in building foundations for economic development, but the 2011 Parliamentary General Elections have shown that perhaps Singaporeans want more than that now. Not only did the conversations indicate increasing dissatisfaction with the ruling party, the fact that these conversations were taking place on social media platforms narrowed the influence that state-run media had on public opinion. Alternative news sources and opposition parties had a voice in online spaces that the state and its ruling party had significantly less control over. That elections saw the ruling party’s power visibly shaken, an outcome attributed to the increasing power of social media led by a more technologically savvy and connected younger generation. Not only has the freedom of press been of increasing concern, issues surrounding the mandatory death penalty for drug offences and homosexuality have been gaining prominence in civil society debate.

Research objective

This focus group aims to study the state of democracy in Singapore, specifically on whether democratic reforms are desired and how they are prioritised by Singaporeans today, and the outlook of such a change being led by the younger generation of voters today.

Group selection

  • Group size: 8-12
  • Group composition:
    • Eligible voter in Singapore: above 21 years of age, Singaporean citizen
    • Young adult, between 21-35 years of age
    • Racial profile of participant group representative of racial proportions in Singapore
    • Fair mix of male and female participants

Question set

  1. What comes to mind when you think about politics and Singapore?
  2. How do you engage yourself with politics in Singapore? 
  3. What does democracy mean to you? 
  4. What do you think about the status of democracy in Singapore?
  5. What do you think hinders Singapore in its political liberalisation?
  6. How does an ordinary citizen like yourself factor in the democratic process?
  7. What do you think about the role of social media in this process?
  8. Suppose you were the Prime Minister, what is the most crucial thing you would change?

Thank you.


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