The ruling People’s Action Party scored a landslide victory Saturday morning as the most fiercely contested election in Singapore’s independent history ended with dramatic swings away from opposition parties.
The PAP, which has governed Singapore since 1959, won all but two constituencies with largely comfortable margins. It polled at 69.86 per cent, a turnaround from the 2011 general election, where the party received its lowest-ever vote share of 60.1 per cent.
“Thank you very much for giving us a chance to continue to serve you with all our hearts. We are humbled by your trust in us, and we are humbled by your trust in [Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong] and the whole PAP team to take Singapore forward to a better future,” Deputy Prime Minister Tharman Shanmugaratnam said.
Lee Li Lian, a candidate of the opposition Workers’ Party who lost her seat by a narrow margin, said: “We respect the voters’ decision. There could be a lot of factors which we will go back to evaluate. We cannot take any election for granted.”
Although accepting the result, some opposition politicians continued to raise issues related to the electoral process, such as the Elections Department being under the purview of the Prime Minister’s Office and the regular redrawing of electoral boundaries every election.
“Despite everything that’s happened, the opposition still labours under a very undemocratic system,” said Chee Soon Juan, leader of the Singapore Democratic Party. “I do worry if we continue on in this fashion the future of Singapore is not going to be where we all want to see it go.”
The polling stations were open for 12 hours until 8 pm (1200 GMT), after a fiercely fought election campaign in which opposition parties sought to break the PAP’s unbroken hold on power.
The PAP had been expected to win another majority in the new Parliament, whose membership has been increased to 89, but opposition parties called for voters to increase their support for more diverse voices as a check on the ruling party.
“We visited 15 polling stations in all throughout the day, and people were excited, happy, polling for the first time,” Tan Jee Say, secretary general of the new opposition party Singaporeans First, told Channel NewsAsia.
The party is contesting a constituency previously helmed by Singapore’s first prime minister, Lee Kuan Yew, who died in March.
Polling was orderly, but some voters reported queues at their polling stations on social media. Others praised the process for being swift and efficient.
The members of Parliament were chosen from 16 group representation constituencies, in which four to six candidates run as teams, and 13 single-member constituencies.