This report seeks to raise awareness of the complexities, challenges and constraints pertaining to foreign interference in domestic politics in relation to Singapore.
Foreign interference in domestic politics has grown more sophisticated over the years, due in part to the availability and use of Information and Communications Technologies (ICTs). ICTs not only enable new pathways to influence a target state and its people, but also enable adversaries to develop ways to mask their true intentions.
Consequently, it is difficult to tell if deliberate online falsehoods and misinformation targeting a particular state is state-sponsored (i.e., a Hostile Information Campaign (HIC)), or if a foreign actor who interferes in the domestic politics of another state is doing so at the behest of a foreign state. Notwithstanding, global examples over the last five years suggest that foreign interference in domestic politics is growing.
The ultimate aim of foreign interference in domestic politics is to advance the interfering state’s national interests at the expense of the targeted state. Political elites, public institutions/agencies, public policies and social fault lines can be potential targets of foreign interference.
Being “pressure points”, foreign actors can use such targets to influence the actions and views of political elites, aligning them with their interests and/or the interests of their state clients. The foreign actor can also support oppositional voices and movements, stir up public unrest, and aggressively lobby for radical changes in policies through individuals as well as organisations. A key point to note is that targets can be attacked with sophisticated online, as well as offline methods.
As a potential target, Singapore is vulnerable due to its openness, multiracial/multireligious composition and global interconnectivity (on and offline). The city-state has learnt lessons from past attempts by foreign actors to interfere in its domestic politics, and therefore, takes this threat very seriously.
There is no way to eliminate the threat of foreign interference in domestic politics, but the risks can be mitigated. Updates to existing legislation pertaining to foreign interference in domestic politics, policies to empower and equip law enforcement with the necessary tools to carry out deep investigations, enhancing the protection of election integrity, and educating/mobilising society to recognise and resist foreign interference, are possible approaches.
Related Policy Reports:
Global / International Politics and Security / Policy Reports / Singapore and Homeland Security
Last updated on 06/05/2020