By the time this is published, voters in Singapore will have elected a new parliament and government. Contrary to popular belief, the island state has elections that, even detractors can’t deny, are clean and above board.
Government officials are elected or removed by universal suffrage, the hustings are economical and civilised, and – most importantly, for a youthful democracy – opposition parties are no longer penalised or dismissed by the ruling party or the electorate, as demonstrated by the massive turnouts at rallies by opposition parties ahead of the past two general elections.
I proudly cast my ballot at the Singapore consulate in Hong Kong a little over a week ago.
China’s first modern elections were held when it was still an absolute monarchy under the Qing dynasty (1644- 1911). The Tianjin county council was elected in 1907 and elections for provincial assemblies and municipal councils in 21 out of 22 provinces were held to assuage discontent against the Qing court. The political franchise was strictly limited, however, and only the gentry could run for office or vote. Most of the representatives elected were constitutional monarchists, who went on to elect 100 members to the National Assembly, with the other 100 appointed by the court. Several national and regional elections were subsequently held but they were of little consequence in the turbulent decades of civil war, revolution and foreign invasion.