Mr Lee Kuan Yew’s passing: Photos from Day 4

A great photo essay by The Straits Times.



Ex-ISD dir calls upon PM to forgive ex-oppo members

Originally published on TR Emeritus.

Writing on his blog [Link], the former director of Singapore’s Internal Security Department (ISD), Mr Yoong Siew Wah, has called upon PM Lee to relax the “inordinate persecution” of Francis Seow and Tang Liang Hong by allowing them a safe return to Singapore to lead a normal life.

His call came after the demise of PM Lee’s father, Lee Kuan Yew, who was the first PM of Singapore.

Mr Yoong wrote on his blog asking PM Lee, “Would you be humane enough to redeem a little bit of your late father’s handiwork by relaxing the inordinate persecution of Francis Seow and Tang Liang Hong by allowing them safe return to Singapore to lead a normal life?”

“By no stretch of imagination can they be described as major security threat,” Mr Yoong added. “There is a Chinese saying that if you want to impose a criminal charge on a person there is no dearth of a reason (欲加之罪,何患無詞).”

Mr Yoong also noted that magnanimity was not one of Lee Kuan Yew’s traits in his lifetime.

He said of the late Mr Lee, “Is there any character flaw in the late Lee Kuan Yew? Some of his unfortunate political opponents are no longer alive to answer that. Some of them suffered immensely, whether real or imaginary depending on which side you are on, at the hand of the humanitarian Lee Kuan Yew but strangely bore no ill-will against him.”

“The late Dr. Lim Hock Siew’s son was five months old when he was unceremoniously detained under Operation Coldstore on 2 February, 1963 and entered university when his father was humanely released after 19 years in detention. Chia Thye Poh held the honour of 32 years in detention, even longer than the famous South African leader Nelson Mandela,” he added.

Former opposition member Francis Seow

Francis Seow was the former Solicitor-General of Singapore and served under then PM Lee Kuan Yew. He eventually left public service and entered into private law practice in 1972.

He later became the President of Law Society in 1986. His appointment led to a falling out with Lee Kuan Yew after he became embroiled in the politics surrounding the role of the Law Society at that time. He had envisaged a restoration of the role of the Law Society to comment on legislation that the government was then churning out without any meaningful parliamentary debate, a role which Lee Kuan Yew took special exception to.

As a result, the entire council of the Law Society and its legislation sub-committee were summoned to appear before a parliamentary select committee and interrogated by then PM Lee Kuan Yew. Under long and intimidating questioning by Mr Lee, which was telecast on TV, Mr Seow and his colleagues stood their ground. In the end, it was Mr Lee and his committee members that came out looking bad. Regardless, the Legal Profession Amendment Bill was subsequently passed by Parliament and, the right and duty of the Law Society to comment on legislation was removed.

Some months later in 1987, some of the members of Law Society together with opposition politicians, church workers and others were arrested and detained without trial under the ISA. They were arrested for purportedly involving in a conspiracy to “overthrow” the Govt by force and replace it with a Marxist state. Francis Seow became the lawyer for several of those detained.

On 6 May 1988, Mr Seow who was representing some of the detainees was himself arrested under the ISA while waiting inside the ISD headquarters to meet his clients. The government accused him of “colluding with foreign diplomats and officials to lead a group of opposition lawyers and professionals into Parliament”. He was alleged to have misused his status as a legal counsel as a cover for political propaganda and agitation. Mr Seow was held in detention for 72 days and was later released as a result of pressure by international human rights organisations.

Soon after his release, Mr Seow stood for election as an opposition candidate at Eunos GRC in the 1988 GE in Sep. Mr Seow and his team managed to secure 49.1% of valid votes, losing only marginally to the PAP stronghold.

After election, Mr Seow was charged with tax evasion. He sought political asylum in the United States. In exile, he became a Visiting Fellow at Yale University and then at Harvard University where he wrote several books. Mr Seow was convicted in absentia.

It was later revealed by ESM Goh that former National Development Minister S. Dhanabalan left the Cabinet in 1992 because he was not comfortable with the way the PAP had dealt with the “Marxist Conspiracy” incident. “At that time, given the information, he was not fully comfortable with the action we took… he felt uncomfortable and thought there could be more of such episodes in future. So he thought since he was uncomfortable, he’d better leave the Cabinet. I respected him for his view,” Mr Goh said of Mr Dhanabalan.

On 16 October 2007, Amnesty International issued a public statement that mentioned Mr Seow as one of two prominent lawyers who had been penalized for exercising their right to express their opinions. Amnesty International named him a “prisoner of conscience”.

Former opposition member Tang Liang Hong

Tang Liang Hong was a lawyer and former opposition politician. He stood as an opposition candidate in the Cheng San GRC at the 1997 GE. Mr Tang’s team garnered 45.2% of valid votes and lost to PAP.

During the election campaign, PAP leaders accused Mr Tang of being an anti-Christian and anti-Muslim, Chinese chauvinist. Mr Tang vigorously denied that he was a Chinese chauvinist and accused the PAP of trying to win votes by sowing fear into the electorate.

After the election, Mr Tang was sued for defamation by several of the PAP leaders, who accused him of making statements during the campaign which falsely questioned their integrity. A total of 13 judgements were entered against Mr Tang for defamation. In addition, he also faced tax evasion charges.

Mr Tang fled to Australia soon after the election and has not returned to Singapore since then.

The PAP leaders were able to obtain default judgements against Mr Tang in their suits. Damages of some $8 million were entered against him.

Liberalizing Electoral Outcomes (Excerpts; Part 2)

Excerpts (Part 2) of a journal article, on when and why elections in competitive authoritarian regimes “usher in significant political liberalization.”

You can download the original article/PDF here, by academic professors Marc Morjé Howard and Philip G. Roessler.

The authors used Kenya’s 2002 election as an illustration of a “liberalizing electoral outcome.”

Simplified Version: Part 1 | Part 2

Excerpts Version: Part 1 | Part 2 (this post)

Original PDF: Link

Part 1 refers to Singapore’s political situation. Part 2 offers a solution.

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Excerpts from “Liberalizing Electoral Outcomes in Competitive Authoritarian Regimes”
Marc Morjé Howard and Philip G. Roessler


1) Opposition Coalition — When trying to compete against an entrenched competitive authoritarian establishment, opposition movements face an uphill battle. There is a large degree of asymmetry between the ruling party and the opposition in competitive authoritarian electoral contests because in many developing countries wealth is concentrated in the hands of the government. Consequently, opposition political parties lack access to sufficient material resources to build a broad, nationwide political party that is capable of mounting an effective challenge to the incumbent’s hold on power. The more divided the opposition parties, the more susceptible they are to governmental manipulation, cooptation, and repression. An active and diverse civil society, though important for the consolidation of democracy as it checks the accountability and power of the government (Diamond 1999), proves ineffectual when matched against an oppressive incumbent or ruling party seeking to guarantee reelection.

2) Instead, opposition victory in a competitive authoritarian regime “requires a level of opposition mobilization, unity, skill, and heroism far beyond what would normally be required for victory in a democracy” (Diamond 2002, 24). In short, what is important in competitive authoritarian regimes is how opposition leaders and civil society groups choose to organize in the electoral arena and their ability to create strategic coalitions that are resilient in the face of government force and fraud (Levitsky and Way 2001

3) In our conception, what is important is the ability of these political elites to come together, not by giving up their own parties and interests or by submitting to a charismatic leader, but in order to form a strategic coalition (whether formal or informal) for the specific goal of winning an election.

4) An opposition coalition can increase the probability of political liberalization in four ways.

  • First, it can take votes away from the ruling regime. When the opposition has joined together, an unpopular incumbent is less able to use repression and patronage to coerce and induce people to vote for him, and thereby to slide by with a plurality of votes.
  • Second, it can prevent incumbents from playing opposition parties and leaders against each other, thus making “divide and rule” a less effective strategy.
  • Third, it can increase the perceived risks and costs of repression and manipulation. The police, army, and bureaucrats may be less inclined to employ illegal practices to benefit the incumbent if they calculate that the opposition is sufficiently organized that it can mount a credible challenge to the ruling party, since the authoritarian incumbent’s henchmen could face recriminations for their actions if the opposition wins.
  • Finally, it can mobilize people to vote against the incumbent, as the electorate has a sense that change is possible, and they begin to view the opposition as an alternative governing coalition.

5) Our expectation is that cases with opposition coalitions will have a much greater likelihood of a LEO (Liberalizing Electoral Outcome).

6) Opposition Mobilization — In addition to the strategic choice of opposition leaders, widespread public mobilization can also play a crucial role in the opposition’s ability to challenge the incumbent. Protest may weaken the legitimacy of the incumbent and provide signals to the electorate that the incumbent is vulnerable to defeat. Moreover, the more motivated
and mobilized the electorate, the more likely people are to vote in the elections, whereas a demoralized and apathetic citizenry will probably not bother participating in the electoral process. In cases of extremely high mobilization, sustained protest may force an autocratic incumbent to step down, as occurred in Indonesia in 1998 and Peru in 2000.

7) In order to measure opposition mobilization, we incorporated Banks’ measure of antigovernment demonstrations, which entail “any peaceful public gathering of at least 100 people for the primary purpose of displaying or voicing their opposition to government policies or authority, excluding demonstrations of a distinctly anti-foreign nature” (2002). We calculated the average number of antigovernment demonstrations in the year before the election and the year of the election.

8) The hypothesis is that a higher level of mobilization will be positively associated with the occurrence of a LEO.

9) According to this argument, an economic crisis undermines support for an authoritarian regime, divides the ruling elites, and creates opportunities for the opposition to mobilize. In short, a crisis helps to tilt the balance of power in favor of the opposition and weaken the bargaining power of the incumbent.

10) . . .greater political openness and respect for civil liberties are indicators that the regime is showing a willingness to accept the rules of the game of democracy. This respect for civil liberties prior to the election may foreshadow its behavior during the election. If this is the case, then LEOs, which signify more free and fair elections than in the past, should consistently occur in more liberal regimes.

11) In short, this statistical analysis suggests that the responsibility for liberalizing electoral outcomes in competitive authoritarian regimes falls on the shoulders of the opposition and its ability to put aside differences and form a coalition, rather than waiting for the resignation of the incumbent or a sufficient opening of the political system.

NOTE: Figure 2 below shows the statistical analysis on probabilities of a Liberalizing Electoral Outcome.


12) CASE STUDY (KENYA): Having demonstrated that an opposition coalition is an important factor in bringing about liberalizing electoral outcomes, in this section we try to illustrate how it matters.

[The cases in our study] show that an opposition coalition—which often developed somewhat surprisingly, as old rivals suddenly became strategic allies—clearly became a decisive factor that led to the significant political liberalization of each country.

For example, during the run-up to the 2000 presidential elections in Serbia and Montenegro, opposition leaders such as Zoran Djindjic and Vojislav Kostunica—who had previously been bitterly divided—decided to create an 18-party alliance, the Democratic Opposition of Serbia, to oppose Slobodan Milosevic. The 2000 elections in Senegal saw the shocking upset of 20-year president Abdou Diouf, by Abdoulaye Wade, who had lost the four previous elections by wide margins.

13) On the other hand, the case of Zimbabwe 2002 reminds us that the relationship between an opposition coalition and a liberalizing electoral outcome is merely probabilistic. Though the political opposition and civil society rallied behind a single presidential candidate in the 2002 election in its challenge of the long-time incumbent Robert Mugabe, it did not guarantee a liberalizing outcome. The unified opposition raised the costs of repression, manipulation, and patronage—setting in motion a mechanism for political liberalization—but the Mugabe government was willing to incur these costs even if it meant compromising its monopoly of violence, bankrupting the economy, destroying vital commercial farms, inducing famine and food shortages, and facing stringent international sanctions.

14) Crucial to the formation of a broad-based coalition was the political opposition’s growing coordination in parliament and its increasing number of linkages with civil society throughout the 1990s. Though none of their leaders was able to win the presidency in the 1992 and 1997 elections, the multiple political parties in the opposition were able to control nearly half of the elected seats in parliament, increasingly assert themselves as a cohesive political force, and ally with a younger generation of more technocratic KANU politicians, who were not afraid to challenge Moi (Barkan 2003).

15) Soon afterwards, Odinga endorsed Kibaki’s bid for president, and the NAK and Rainbow Coalition merged on October 21, 2002 to form the “super-alliance” of the National Rainbow Coalition (NARC). The parties signed a “public Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) with the design of fielding a single compromise candidate for the presidency as well as for each parliamentary seat and local-government post” (Ndegwa 2003, 153). With this degree of coordination, and with representatives hailing from all of the country’s major ethnic groups, the NARC positioned itself to exploit the electorate’s antipathy to the Moi regime and channel votes to one opposition presidential candidate.

16) With NARC running on a campaign of ending corruption and cleaning up the government, any devious pre-election acts by regime hardliners could be subject to possible criminal investigations by a new NARC government.

17) Other factors contributed to KANU’s reluctance to use force and fraud. In the lead up to the 2002 election, the Kenyan press and international and domestic human rights groups highlighted government abuses in previous elections to remind hard-liners on both sides, but particularly within the KANU government, that they would be exposed and held accountable if they orchestrated violence (Human Rights Watch 2002).

18) The National Rainbow Coalition, comprising some fifteen political parties and supported by all four major opposition presidential candidates from the 1997 election, channeled the opposition vote into one candidate, while raising the risks and costs of the use of force and fraud by the Moi regime—effectively rendering these policies futile.

19) NARC now struggles with the inherent tensions that persist in many opposition alliances that manage to oust a dominant incumbent party. It has been unable to evolve into a unified political party, became bitterly divided over a referendum on a new constitution, and has fallen far short in its anti-graft campaign. Despite its shortcomings, however, the NARC’s victory has set Kenya on a new path, and has contributed to a greater degree of liberalization in the country.

20) And while some countries that have had liberalizing electoral outcomes will probably slide backwards in the future, the achievement of an opposition coalition, even if it dissolves later, will likely remain as a pivotal historical moment, an inspiration to future opposition movements in that country and elsewhere.

Reference: “Liberalizing Electoral Outcomes in Competitive Authoritarian Regimes,” by Marc Morjé Howard and Philip G. Roessler (2006)

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Simplified Version: Part 1 | Part 2

Excerpts Version: Part 1 | Part 2 (this post)

Original PDF: Link

Part 1 refers to Singapore’s political situation. Part 2 offers a solution.

Additional images/quotes for Part 2 available in simplified version.

Download the original PDF article here.