Singapore's elder statesman Lee Kuan Yew was on Wednesday returned to Parliament unopposed for the fifth successive time as nominations closed for the May 7 general election

However, the city-state is poised to see an unprecedented contest for 82 of the 87 parliamentary seats, with polls being slated in 12 single-member constituencies and 14 Group Representation Constituencies (GRCs).

Mr. Lee won from one of the GRCs. Four others of the long-governing People's Action Party (PAP), who were on his slate of candidates, were also declared winners.

The system of GRCs was devised by the PAP as a “guarantee” of at least “a minimum representation of minorities in Parliament”. Opposition politicians view it as a ploy to deny them a level-playing field. They have argued that seasoned leaders of ruling party often use the GRCs as vote-blocs to ensure the success of untested candidates.

Commenting on the prospect of an unprecedented competition this time, Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong promised a “response” to this “challenge” which he described as a contest “for real”. He leads the slate of PAP candidates in one of 14 contested GRCs. It was not the first time, however, that the PAP was not returned to power on the nomination day.

The several opposition parties in the fray have avoided fighting each other in all the 14 GRCs and 11 of the 12 single-member wards. With no prime ministerial candidate of their own, the opposition parties are seeking mainly to win political space for “alternative voices” in Parliament. However, Sylvia Lim, a leader of the Workers Party, virtually spoke for all the opposition groups by describing the electorate as “the secret weapon” to create “a First-World Parliament”.

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