Otherwise known as ‘winner takes all’, a first-past-the-post electoral system is one in which voters indicate on a ballot the candidate of their choice, and the candidate who receives the most votes is elected as MP.
Singapore inherited this system from the British and it continues to be used in most former British colonies including India. In these countries, the state is divided into multiple electoral divisions and they vote independently of each other.
Under this system, larger and more established political parties have a clear advantage as they can field candidates in more constituencies. As such, they tend to win elections and form one-party governments more easily.
While it is straightforward, FPTP has been criticized for failing to reflect the voters’ choice. In some cases, candidates can win even if they do not garner more than 50 per cent of the votes — what matters is getting more votes than their contenders. In the 2011 presidential elections for example, Mr Tony Tan won with just 35.2 per cent of the votes, edging out Mr Tan Cheng Bock by a slim margin of 0.35 per cent.
It is also more difficult for smaller political parties to gain fair representation in Parliament because their supporters are spread out across the country. In the 2015 general election, the Workers’ Party won 12.5 per cent of the votes but only got 6.7 per cent of the seats in parliament.
Summary of Singapore’s 2011 Presidential Election Results. SOURCE: ELECTIONS DEPARTMENT SINGAPORE.