Singapore’s ruling party retains power but opposition gains support

By Gaspar Ruiz-Canela

Bangkok, July 11 (efe-epa).- The ruling People’s Action Party (PAP) won its 15th consecutive elections since 1959 in Singapore, consolidating its hegemony in the prosperous city-state, even though the opposition achieved its best results in decades.

Amid the pandemic and a budding economic crisis, the voters on Friday expressed their confidence in the PAP, led by Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong, a technocrat, who has followed the legacy of his father, Lee Kuan Yew, the founder of modern Singapore.

The PAP secured 61 percent of the total votes, and 83 of the 93 seats in the parliament, whereas the Workers’ Party won 11 percent of the votes cast resulting in 10 seats, according to official results announced early Saturday.

The Progressive Party came in third with 9 percent of the vote but did not win a seat due to an electoral system that tilts in favor of large parties.

The PAP won its first elections in 1959 when the former British colony achieved limited self-government and has since remained the main political force on the island, including the two years when it was a part of Malaysia before becoming independent in 1965.

“I will use this mandate responsibly to deal with Covid-19 and the economic downturn,” Lee said in a televised press conference after the results were declared.

Lee said although his vote share was “not as high as I had hoped for,” they still had a clear mandate to govern for the next five years.

Lee congratulated the opposition on its good results by recognizing that many young people voted for opposition candidates and welcomed the diversity of voices in parliament.

Addressing the media, Workers’ Party leader Pritam Singh said he was proud of his party’s results, the best since independence.

Wearing masks and maintaining physical distance, some 2.5 million people, 96 percent of the electorate, turned out to vote on Friday.

Voting is mandatory in the city-state and polling had to be extended by two hours due to delays and long lines caused by precautionary measures against the Covid-19.

The elections were originally due to be held in April next year but Lee decided to dissolve the parliament and declare early polls so that the next government could focus on the challenges posed by the pandemic in the coming months.

Singapore was among the countries with a very efficient response to the Covid-19, resulting in only 26 deaths so far.

However, outbreaks have occurred in the overcrowded dormitories of immigrant workers, accounting for 90 percent of the more than 45,000 total cases.

Moreover, Singapore faces a 4 to 7 percent decline in GDP this year due to the impact of the novel coronavirus, which would mark the country’s worst recession since independence.

Despite having one of the highest per capita GDP in the world, the Southeast Asian nation, brimming with luxury hotels and leading research centers, suffers from high-income inequality with a Gini index of 0.452, although it has improved in recent years.

The 68-year-old prime minister is seen as a continuation of the legacy of his father, who achieved the modernization of Singapore with liberal economic measures and an authoritarian political style.

He is also one of the highest-paid politicians in the world with an annual salary of about SG$2.2 million ($1.5 million).

The opposition accuses the government of lack of political transparency, delimiting constituencies in its favor, controlling the mainstream media, and using laws to stifle critical voices.

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