The principal Opposition, the Workers’ Party, put up a good fight in key group representation constituencies (GRCs), increasing its seat tally to 10 against the earlier six
Singapore voted on Friday to elect the country’s 14th Parliament, in the midst of the Covid-19 pandemic and slowing economic growth.
In the election that had actually begun a day earlier — with voters abroad casting their ballots at the respective embassies in their country of residence — the ruling People’s Action Party (PAP) romped home with 83 out of the 93 seats. The results were declared late into the night after polling hours were extended by two hours, in an unprecedented move.
Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong, who called for the election a little over a fortnight ago, had sought re-election over the government’s efficient handling of the Covid-19 crisis and the need for a stable government to steer the country through the uncertain environment.
Opposition leaders had questioned the need for holding an election in the midst of the pandemic. However, the comfortable majority means the PAP will remain in power for the next five years.
Speaking after declaration of the results, PM Lee said that while the PAP received a “clear mandate” from the people, the percentage of the popular vote was not as high as he had hoped for, CNA (Channel NewsAsia) reported.
The principal Opposition, the Workers’ Party (WP), put up a good fight in key group representation constituencies (GRCs), increasing its seat tally to 10 against the earlier six (in 2015). Consequently, the PAP’s vote share dropped to 61.24 per cent, its worst performance since independence in terms of seats lost to the Opposition.
Economic growth concerns had engulfed the island nation, with the pandemic causing job losses and pay cuts. The WP’s manifesto had stated the need for a minimum national wage, tightening of employment pass (EP) approvals to foreigners, as well as abolishment of the ethnic quota in sale of HDB (housing development board) flats, in order to attract votes by the youth and ethnic minorities.
Interestingly, the WP is led by an ethnic Indian Pritam Singh, who has, in the past, been vocal about issues regarding racism. It is ironical, then, that the party should endorse a protectionist measure of tightening EP approvals.
At the same time, PM Lee had said in a rally that the Indian community remained well represented, despite no new Indian-origin candidates in the PAP list this year. Incumbent law minister K Shanmugam is a prominent face of the ethnic Indian community in the ruling party.
The other theme dominating the polls this year was PM Lee’s estranged brother Lee Hsien Yang, who joined the new outfit Progress Singapore Party (PSP), founded by a former PAP stalwart Tan Cheng Bock in 2019.
While the younger Lee sibling decided to sit out this time round, the issue of the feuding siblings was back in focus, which stems from differences over the future of PAP founder and former PM Lee Kuan Yew’s house, which he wanted demolished after his demise.
The PM’s younger siblings Yang and Lee Wei Ling have endorsed their late father’s move, but PM Lee has contested that LKY (as the former PM was popularly referred to) was open to alternatives.
PSP, too, gave a tough fight to the PAP key wards. In the West Coast GRC, the PAP team, led by former trade minister S Iswaran, managed to edge the PSP by garnering 51.69 per cent of the vote share — a 26 per cent drop from its 2015 tally — according to the Straits Times.
Given that this was the lowest margin of loss by the losing aspirants across all constituencies, the PSP may be offered Non-constituency Member of Parliament (NCMP) seats — which is given to the best performing losing candidates.
Pulling off an 11th-hour surprise on nomination day, the PAP fielded deputy PM Heng Swee Keat (also tipped to be Lee’s successor), from the East Coast GRC. The move proved a masterstroke as the PAP withstood the WP challenge despite the latter clocking in 46.59 per cent of the popular vote.
The talking point of the election, however, was the Sengkang GRC, which the WP wrested from the PAP, thereby taking its seat tally to 10. This was only the second GRC after Aljunied to go to non-PAP candidates.
Despite the surge in vote share of the Opposition, the PAP ran comfortable winners on the night, with PM Lee having received a strong mandate for the next term.
The outcome also holds significance for India, a strategic partner for the city-state. In November 2019, PM Lee had called for increased economic cooperation between India and ASEAN, given the total size of 2 billion people and combined GDP of $5.5 trillion.
According to the Ministry of Trade and Industry (Singapore) India is a significant trading partner, with total bilateral trade amounting to SG$26.4 billion in 2018. Singapore’s investments in India have grown exponentially over the past decade, with the country becoming India’s largest investor in 2018.
Source: Business Standard