Singapore: Elections kick off and the ruling party is put to test

On September 1, the publicity war of the Singapore election kicked off and all opposition parties will resort to tactics to win votes in just nine days time, challenging the long-ruling People’s Action Party (PAP).

Each party completed the nomination procedure on September 1 and the parliamentary election is now in full-blown. It is predicted to be an intense war and will test whether or not the people still support Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong and his government.

On August 25, the Singapore government announced the dissolution of parliament and has scheduled September 11 as Polling Day and the day before as Cooling-Off Day, on which all campaign activities will cease.

The nation’s 2.5 million eligible voters, who are required by law to cast a ballot, will select 89 members of parliament in 13 Single Member Constituencies and 16 Group Representation Constituencies.

In past parliamentary elections, opposition parties have not been able to participate due to insufficient number of members and has led to the PAP winning in some constituencies because of the absence of opponents. But in the election this year, the PAP will face challenges from either oppositions parties or non-party candidates.

The PAP moved to shore up support after 2011, where it lost some districts and secured its lowest share yet of the popular vote — 60 percent. The government shifted further from a decades-long policy of preserving budget surpluses, boosting spending on lower-income families and the elderly to offset a higher cost of living. This year’s election will reflect whether or not the people support these changes made by Lee Hsien Loong’s government.

Singapore’s largest opposition party, Workers’ Party of Singapore, staged its first rally of the election on the evening of September 2 and over ten thousand people participated. The party promotes equal opportunity, anti-elitism and believes leaders should come from multicultural backgrounds.

According to regulations, the 17th parliamentary election needs to be held before January of 2017.

Analysts have pointed out the PAP has moved up the election so they can gain more support from the nostalgia of celebrating Singapore’s 50th National Day and commemorating Former Prime Minister Lee Kuan Yew who passed away not long ago.

People attend an election campaign rally by the opposition Workers' Party in Singapore

Photo Credit: Reuters

Malaysia: Boat believed to be carrying Indonesian illegal immigrants capsizes

An overloaded wooden boat believed to be carrying dozens of Indonesian illegal immigrants sank off the coast of Malaysia on Thursday, killing at least 14 people, among them 13 women, maritime officials said.

The boat had left Sabak Bernam in Malaysia’s western state of Selangor for Sumatra in neighboring Indonesia when the accident happened. It is unclear if any staff members were killed or injured.

Initial conversations with survivors led officials to believe the passengers were Indonesian, said Muhammad Aliyas Hamdan, an official of the Malaysian Maritime Enforcement Agency (MMEA). He also says, “If they are legal, they would not leave (the country) that way."

15 passengers have been rescued so far and according to their descriptions, there couldn’t have been more than a hundred people aboard.

Southeast Asia faced a huge migrant crisis after Thailand cracked down on people-smuggling gangs in May, with more than 4,000 people landing in Bangladesh, Indonesia, Malaysia, Myanmar, and Thailand. Hundreds are believed to have drowned.

Malaysia Rohingya Boat People

Photo Credit: AP

Indonesia: Bonding with Australia once again after the execution of drug smugglers

On September 3, Foreign Minister Julie Bishop declared Australia’s relationship with Indonesia is “in good shape" and highlighted her regular text message contact with Indonesian counterpart Retno Marsudi.

Ties between the two countries frayed earlier this year when Australian drug smugglers Andrew Chan and Myuran Sukumaran were executed by firing squad in Indonesia.

Australia froze ministerial visits to Indonesia in the aftermath of the deaths, and Prime Minister Tony Abbott was unable to make phone contact with Indonesia’s president Joko Widodo.

But Bishop has rejected the possibility of lasting damage to bilateral ties.

She says, “There are tensions in the relationship from time to time. We are two very different countries but we are neighbors, and we both realize that we need to get along we need to align our interests and we are doing that exceedingly well."

Bishop held a meeting with Marsudi on the morning of September 3, describing the talks as “warm and constructive". She also said she would travel to Indonesia in mid-October to hand over as chair of the Indian Ocean Rim Association (IORA).

Australia's Australian Foreign Minister Julie Bishop co-hosts an Australian ministerial meeting at the 48th Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) foreign ministers meeting in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia

Julie Bishop. Photo Credit: Reuters

Translated and compiled by Olivia Yang