As the election campaign continues past the halfway mark, there has been some buzz over the Singapore Democratic Alliance’s posters, which feature vintage style illustrations rather than the photos of candidates.
That prompted me to look into the history of Singapore’s election posters and leaflets and see how the designs have evolved through the decades.
In 1955, Singapore held elections under the Rendel Constitution. The incumbent Singapore Progressive Party, the new People’s Action party and the Labour Front were among the parties that contested. The Labour Front won the majority of votes and formed a coalition with the Singapore Alliance Party and David Marshall became Singapore’s first Chief Minister.
Almost all posters and leaflets were printed in black and white to save costs.
The poster below was produced to show the members of the Legislative Assembly elected in the 1955 election.
In 1957, Lee Kuan Yew resigned his seat to recontest it in a by-election in response to David Marshall’s challenge. However Marshall withdrew from the contest and Lee won the by-election with 68.1% of the votes.
In 1959, elections were held to usher in full internal self-government. The PAP and the Singapore Progressive Alliance headed by Chief Minister Lim Yew Hock contested the polls. The PAP won a landslide victory and formed the government for the first time.
Voting was made compulsory for the first time in 1959 and posters were also produced to remind people of this.
In 1961, David Marshall contested in the 1961 Anson by-election as a Workers’ Party candidate after the PAP Assemblyman died. He won the seat but subsequently lost it in the 1963 general election.
In the 1963 general election, Lim Yew Hock’s SPA once again contested. After not winning any seats, the party was dissolved after independence in 1965.
In 1980, the Workers’ Party’s JB Jeyaretnam produced the poster below. While he was unsuccessful in winning the seat, he contested the 1981 Anson by-election and became the first opposition MP in Parliament since 1966.
In 1984, Chiam See Tong successfully contested the seat of Potong Pasir. His poster is below.
The 1984 election was the final one contested by Barisan Sosialis. The party merged with the Workers’ Party before the 1988 election.
For the 1988 election, the PAP capitalised on the newly opened MRT network to produce the poster below.
As GRCs were introduced in 1988, election posters also featured multiple candidates’ photos for the first time.
“More Good Years” was a signature slogan for PM Goh Chok Tong in the 1990s and it was reflected in this poster.
Seet Ai Mee became infamous for washing her hands after shaking a fishmonger’s hands during a walkabout in the 1991 election. She subsequently lost her seat to the SDP’s Ling How Doong.
The Workers’ Party also produced a variety of posters in the 1990s. Below are some examples.
SDP’s Chee Soon Juan contested the 1997 election as party chief after Chiam left and headed the Singapore People’s Party. The SDP lost both seats it had won in 1991.
Independent Candidates post-1965
Independent candidates were largely irrelevant after independence. But some dogged individuals continued to produce posters with their meagre resources for elections. Their posters were simple and used generic symbols.
Stanley Mariadass contested against the PAP’s Tony Tan in 1984. He lost with 22.6% of votes.
Businessman Lee Mun Hung contested against the PAP’s Hu Tsu Hau in 1984, winning 16.8% of votes.
The poster below is the only one where the entire body of the candidate is visible and he is posing with a thumbs up. Yen Kim Khooi won 22% of the votes against the PAP’s Eugene Yap in 1991.