Singapore’s Lee scores massive poll victory

Lee hsien Loong

Singapore’s ruling People’s Action Party has swept the polls, retaining its decades-old grip over power and returning long-standing leader Lee Hsien Loong as prime minister of the island state. Mr Loong is the son of Lee Kuan Yew, the first prime minister and the architect of modern Singapore. The election was said to be the most fiercely contested elections since independence. After Lee Kuan Yew’s death in early 2015, there was a sense that voters may look beyond the ruling party along with rising discontent against the ruling establishment.

The PAP won 83 out of the 89 seats in the 2015 elections with a massive increase in vote share by nearly 10 percent. This turned out to be more a comeback of sorts for the PAP and Mr Loong.  “We’ve done our best,” Mr Lee told reporters. “It’s a major turning point for Singapore.” The economy is expected to contract further and Mr Loong will have a forbidding task of reassuring his electorate that Singapore can weather the storm.

Ahead of the polls, pundits contended that Singapore was looking for a more pluralistic democracy with more parties rising. Despite winning the 2011 elections with a 60 percent vote share, it was PAP’s worst ever performance. There were many factors which led to a relatively dismal performance in 2011, one of the major reasons being an influx of foreigners into Singapore leading to discontent among the local population.

Immigration issues continue to be the most contentious issue in Singapore. Immigrants have played a vital role in making Singapore what it is today. The vote could also be seen as a preference for continuity since the other opponents have never governed the country and have no track record to prove. The Workers’ party leader, Low Thia Khiang, 59, won his own seat by a margin of less than one percentage point. He was hoping to win at least 20 seats to emerge as a strong opposition and bring about a change in the political setup of Singapore. Mr Lee is viewed as autocratic just like Lee Kuan Yew and with not much room for dissent, as is evident with the state regulating the media.

While the opposition parties lost seats when compared to the last elections, one cannot overlook the fact that Singapore’s political landscape is undergoing a transition and if dissatisfaction with the one party system increases in Singapore, other alternatives could emerge stronger in the future.

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