Singaporeans today voted in large numbers to elect a new government in the country’s fiercely contested general election with Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong facing his toughest political challenge from an emboldened opposition seeking to end one-party dominance.
Politics in the city-state since its independence in 1965 has been dominated by the ruling People’s Action Party founded by Lee Kuan Yew, father of Lee, and it has won every election. The PAP’s biggest competition in the election to the 89-seat parliament is the Workers’ Party, which in the last parliament had seven MPs. The opposition is made up of Workers’ Party, National Solidarity Party, Singapore Democratic Party, Reform Party, Singaporeans First, Singapore People’s Party, Singapore Democratic Alliance and People’s Power Party.
More than 2 million Singaporeans cast their ballot in the country’s 12th general election, with voting closing at 8 PM. In previous elections, the PAP has retained some of its seats without a vote — known as a walkover — as no opposition candidate ran against them. But this year every seat in the compulsory election is being contested.
Despite the hotly contested polls, the PAP led by 63-year-old Lee is expected to to retain a majority in the parliament. However, according to analysts, an emboldened opposition — spurred on by turnouts of thousands of people at its campaign rallies — could come up with a strong performance in the polls. It is the first election since the death of long-term leader Lee Kuan Yew, the PAP founder.
PAP’s success has been attributed to its widespread popularity among Singaporeans — who have seen their country rapidly evolve into a first-world economy — as well as its tight political control. There are also two independent candidates contesting the polls for the first time since 2001. Nine political parties have fielded candidates in this election.
Twenty-one Indian-origin Singaporeans are among 181 candidates who have filed their nominations to contest the snap general election in which Loong’s ruling party’s 50 years of political dominance is being tested. Prominent Indian-origin candidates include Law and Foreign Minister K Shanmugam, Minister in the Prime Minister Office S Iswaran and Environment and Water Resources Minster Vivian Balakrishnan, all political heavyweights from the ruling PAP.
Opposition politicians have challenge the government on issues related to migrants, cost of living, low wages, foreign workers competing for jobs, the stressed transportation system and the age limit on retirees to withdraw Central Provident Fund, a compulsory savings from salaries.