Singapore PM Lee returns to power, promises 'diversity'
Since 1965, Singapore has had only three prime ministers: independence leader Lee Kuan Yew, his cabinet colleague Goh Chok Tong and Lee's son, the present prime minister Lee Hsien Loong.
Proving all the experts right, Singapore Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong secured a “clear mandate" with Singapore's ruling People’s Action Party (PAP) winning 83 of the 93 contested parliamentary seats in the general election held on Friday.
About 2.6 million Singaporeans voted wearing gloves and masks amid the COVID-19 pandemic. They were all given specific two-hour slots and were asked to maintain social distancing.
Even as PAP's victory came as no surprise, things were slightly different this election season. The ruling party, which has been in power since independence in 1965, secured 61.24 per cent of the total number of votes. This was a significant drop from the 69.9 per cent vote share that they obtained in 2015.
The current vote share comes very close to their worst performance of 60% in 2011.
Addressing the fall in voter share at a post results press conference, 68-year old Lee said, “We have a clear mandate, but the percentage of the popular vote is not as high as I had hoped for.”
This time around the Opposition gained ground by winning a record 10 seats. In doing so, they defeated a team in the Group Representation Constituency of Sengkang led by former Minister in the Prime Minister’s Office Ng Chee Meng. Meng is also the Secretary-General of the power National Trades Union Congress (NTUC).
The Prime Minister assured it is “only right” that Workers’ Party’s Indian-origin secretary-general Pritam Singh be “formally designated” as the Leader of the Opposition. Singh will be provided with “appropriate staff support and resources to perform his duties”, Lee added.
What the win means
Lee described the results as an endorsement of the party’s policies and plans, referring to his decision of calling for elections amidst the COVID-19 pandemic.
LOOK: Singapore's Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong casts his vote in the #SingaporeElection.— Bloomberg QuickTake (@QuickTake) July 10, 2020
Analysts and the opposition parties expect his party to win most seats and form the next government. More @business: https://t.co/jnBfnjJGLG #SGVotes pic.twitter.com/kg2s2qCpqX
Lee, who leads the PAP as secretary-general, said, “Singaporeans understand what’s at stake and why we must come together to uphold our national interests. We’ll work with Singapore to realise those plans and solve the problems which we have.”
He a pledged to use this mandate “responsibly” to deal with the COVID-19 situation and economic downturn, to take Singapore “safely through the crisis and beyond”.
Eyes on young voters
However, the drop in voters; share continued to be referred to, albeit obliquely. Lee said that the result also showed a “clear desire” for a diversity of voices in Parliament. He was also quick to identify that it could have been the younger share of votes that help the opposition gain more seats.
“That’ll have to be reflected in our political process and in the government’s policies, because in the end, the government’s policies must be to achieve the aspirations of every generation of Singaporeans,” Lee said, referring to the young vote bank.
“Singaporeans want the PAP to form the government, but they, and especially the younger voters, also want to see more opposition presence in parliament,” he noted. He added that the ruling party do its best to address Singaporeans' concerns, and try to win their support, irrespective of who they voted for.
The PAP contested all 93 seat and the Workers’ Party 21 seats. Nine other political parties also contested the elections.
Experts said that the failure of opposition parties lay in their tendency to pitch themselves as a check against the PAP's dominance rather than offering a viable alternative government.
(With PTI inputs)