Unusually competitive political campaigns have set the stage for Saturday's general election in Singapore.

Several opposition parties, with no name-recognition until recently, have come together — not in a coalition with an agreed prime ministerial candidate but as friends in what they see as foul political weather. Not amused by this, the long-governing People's Action Party (PAP) has vowed to retain power with whatever it might take under the rule book.

There is straight contest for 81 of the 87 seats at stake. And, the new climate of political debate brought the 2011 campaign trail to life. Opposition groups, with the Workers' Party serving as the informal leader, urged the people to help create “a first-world parliament”. Decoded, the message was that Singapore, with no “alternative voices” in its Parliament so far, was not “a first-world country”.

An assertive comment by Lee Kuan Yew, Singapore's Minister Mentor (MM), caused a delicate stir during the campaign.

He said: “If Aljunied [Group Representation Constituency] decides to go that way [in opposition's favour], well, Aljunied has five years to live and repent.”

The comment was magnified under the opposition's political prism. This eventually prompted Foreign Minister George Yeo, leader of the PAP slate in Aljunied, to do some plain-speaking of his own. “When M.M. said, ‘You'll have to repent', this created greater anger, greater resentment in many people …. We must recognise that there is widespread unhappiness about the government. … We must not allow the emotions [of the people] to be all bottled up. We need to transform the PAP,” said Mr. Yeo.

The PAP had often projected itself as the sole political party for prime time. And, the opposition's campaign was aimed at eclipsing this image.

Keywords: Singapore polls

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