Singapore’s long-governing People’s Action Party (PAP) won an absolute parliamentary majority in the early hours of Sunday following Saturday’s general election.
Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong and former Prime Minister Goh Chok Tong were among the winners. By 2.30 a.m. on Sunday, the PAP secured more than a two-thirds majority in the 87-member new Parliament. Singapore’s elder statesman and first Prime Minister Lee Kuan Yew was earlier returned unopposed on the Nominations Day.
The main opposition outfit, the Workers’ Party, managed to win just one seat by the time the PPP crossed the half-way mark. At that stage, the overall outlook for the opposition camp, buoyed by the impressionistic responses of the people on the campaign trail, looked somewhat uncertain. The opposition campaigned for the creation of a “first-world Parliament” with “alternative voices” to check the PAP, in power for over half a century without break.
On Saturday, enthusiastic voting in the city-state’s most keenly contested general election set the stage for some unusual political excitement.
While the cyberspace and the new media were freely accessed during the campaign, conventional ballot boxes were used for the polls. And, counting began shortly after the balloting closed at 8 p.m.
Ranged against the PAP were six opposition parties. Except for a triangular contest in one single-member constituency (SMC), the opposition parties challenged the PAP in straight fights in 11 other SMCs and 14 group representation constituencies (GRCs).
The GRCs are multi-member constituencies. Each contesting party in a GRC was expected to field at least one minority candidate on its slate. Singapore is home to an ethnic-Chinese majority and several minority groups including in particular ethnic-Malays and people of Indian origin.
With the opposition parties having never won in any GRC in the past, much interest now centred on their likely performance this time. While the PAP has consistently hailed the system of GRCs as a minority-friendly necessity in multi-ethnic and multi-cultural Singapore, the opposition parties have often seen this argument as a smokescreen for denying them a level-playing field.