By Selvaganeshamoorthi Balakrishnan
SINGAPORE – The ruling People's Action Party won a landslide victory in the Singapore general elections Friday, cementing the ruling party’s grip on power as well as highlighting the lack of plurality in Singapore's political landscape.
The party, which has been in power since 1959, garnered nearly 70 percent of national votes and secured 83 of 89 seats in the parliament.
Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong, who is also general-secretary of the People’s Action Party, posted on his Facebook page, “Thank you Singaporeans for the strong mandate to take Singapore further forward.”
For the first time, opposition parties contested in every electoral district to challenge the dominance of the ruling party.
Opposition parties also colluded to prevent three-cornered fights, which occur when two opposition parties and the People’s Action Party contest in the same district, in most districts.
However, such tactical moves failed to see the ruling party unseated in any district or even a dip in votes.
Independent candidates contested at two constituencies, but failed to make inroads.
The Worker's Party, the largest opposition party and the only opposition that is elected to parliament, retained six seats and lost one to the People’s Action Party.
Kenneth Jeyaretnam of the opposition Reform Party, posted on Facebook, “Of course we dropped about 8 percent and some of the other parties dropped 20 percent. Ours were two of the most hostile territories and we are still a new Party."
Peculiar to the Singapore electoral system rules in most districts that say parties have to contest in teams of four or five as oppose to contesting individually. Opposition parties have criticised this as it allows less popular People’s Action Party candidates to ride on the contrails of more popular ones.
Though there was no doubt that the People’s Action Party would win this election, the wide margins in their favor – overall, an increase in support of 10 percent – surprised many. In the previous election, the ruling party only garnered about 60 percent of votes – its worst performance yet.
Many believe that the low share of votes in the last election galvanized the party on debating and tackling key issues such as the influx of migrants and prices of housing and commodities.
It has since tightened the pool of foreign labor as well as introducedproperty cooling measures. Extended welfare to the elderly – who are euphemistically called the "Pioneer Generation" – was unveiled after the previous elections.
Some analysts have said the sympathy arising from the death of party founder and former Prime Minister Lee Kuan Yew could've attributed to the national swing towards the People’s Action party.
National observances of Singapore’s 50th year, known here as the SG50 celebrations, which marked the nation's diamond jubilee and stoked nationalistic fervor among citizens, might have also played a pivotal role in the party’s popularity this year.
Whatever their reason for supporting the People’s Action Party, citizens who gave party candidates such strong support at the ballot box apparently are not yet ready to see a change at the helm.
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