Government and Opposition


New Modes of Political Participation and Singapore's Nominated Members of Parliament1

Garry Rodan


Despite growing recognition that authoritarianism can be far more durable than transition theorists previously expected, transition theory assumptions continue to constrain attempts to understand authoritarian regimes. In particular, alternative avenues of political participation to opposition political parties and electoral contests are under examined. Singapore's authoritarian regime involves a range of such innovative institutional and ideological initiatives, one of the most significant being the Nominated Members of Parliament scheme. This promotes notions of representation different from democratic parliamentary representation that are not without appeal to targeted, emerging social forces. Singapore's political economy dynamics contribute to this responsiveness by obstructing independent power bases.


1 Research for this essay was supported by the Australian Research Council through Discovery Project DP0557290, for which the author is grateful. The author also thanks Kanishka Jayasuriya and two anonymous referees for constructive criticisms on an earlier draft as well as interviewees involved in the project for their cooperation. This work was first presented at the ‘Contemporary Authoritarianism in Southeast Asia: Structures, Institutions and Agency’ workshop, organized and funded by the Southeast Asia Research Centre, City University of Hong Kong.