Singapore goes to the polls after fierce campaign

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Singapore (dpa) – Results were expected early Saturday after more than 2 million Singaporeans cast their votes in the most hotly contested election since the city-state’s independence.

The polling stations were open for 12 hours until 8 pm (1200 GMT) Friday after a fiercely fought election campaign in which opposition parties sought to break the People’s Action Party’s (PAP’s) unbroken hold on power.

Singapore does not have exit polls, but for the first time, the Elections Department will release the result late Friday of a “sample count,” in which 100 ballots will be chosen at random at each of the 832 polling centres, then counted up and weighted to account for the difference in the number of votes cast at each polling station.

Such a count is expected to be 95-per-cent accurate with a 4-per-cent margin of error.

The PAP, which has governed Singapore since 1959, is expected to win another majority in the 89-member Parliament, but opposition parties called for voters to increase their support for more diverse voices as a check on the ruling party.

The Elections Department reported that as of 5 pm, 2.09 million of Singapore’s 2.46 million registered voters have cast their ballots. Voting is compulsory.

“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.

Eighty-nine members of Parliament, up from the current 87, will be chosen from 16 group representation constituencies, in which four to six candidates run as teams, and 13 single-member constituencies.

The PAP saw its worst performance in the 2011 general elections when
it received 60.1 per cent of the vote yet received 81 out of the 87 seats in Parliament. It later lost another seat in a by-election in 2013.

The PAP campaigned on its track record of the past five decades in its campaign.

“It’s starting to come together, but I need more, you need more, Singapore needs more,” Lee’s son and current Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong said at a rally ahead of the vote.

The opposition parties countered that more effective checks and balances are necessary to secure more accountability from the government.

“In a democratic system, having a rational and responsible opposition to check on the government can enhance the stability of the nation’s political system and give overseas investors even more confidence in Singapore,” said Workers’ Party leader Low Thia Khiang in his final rally speech.

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