Singapore’s ruling party comes to power for 12th time

Singapore's People's Action party, which has run Singapore for 50 years, returns to power for another five years

Photo by: Reuters
Photo by: Reuters

Singapore's prime minister celebrates victory following general election result

Singapore's ruling party romped to a strong election victory on Friday and was on course to increase its share of the vote and seat tally as it brushed off an opposition challenge in the city state's most hotly contested polls.

The People's Action Party (PAP), which has ruled since independence in 1965, was always expected to win but opposition parties, contesting in all seats for the first time, had hoped to gain enough votes to challenge its domination of politics.

"We are very grateful, we are very happy and at the same time, we are very humbled by the result," Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong told cheering supporters as results flowed in showing the extent of his party's win.

"Tomorrow will be better than today."

The results showed the PAP was expected to easily surpass the 60.1 percent of the vote it won in the last election in 2011. That was its worst-ever showing although it still won 79 of a total 87 seats in parliament.

Full official results for all 89 seats in an expanded parliament were due in the early hours of Saturday but projections showed the opposition could end up with fewer than the seven seats it held in the outgoing parliament.

The PAP had been hoping that a sense of patriotism inspired by this year's 50th anniversary of independence and respect for the country's independence leader, former premier Lee Kuan Yew, who died in March, would work in its favour.

Lee was the father of current Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong.

The elder Lee drew praise for his market-friendly policies, but also criticism at home and abroad for his strict controls over the press, public protest and political opponents.

Swing back to safety

The election came as economic risks are in focus due to uncertainties stemming from China's economic slowdown and wobbly markets.

DBS Bank, Singapore's biggest lender, this week cut its economic growth forecast for Singapore to 1.8 percent, below the official forecast of 2-2.5 percent.

"In the end I would say there was this flight to safety given the economic uncertainties," said Eugene Tan, a political analyst and associate professor at Singapore Management University.

Years of strong growth have turned the island nation into an international financial hub with spotless streets and malls, well-tended parks and living standards unmatched in Southeast Asia.

But that success and an influx of foreign workers have brought high property prices, crowded public transport, and a widening wealth gap which have fuelled resentment among many in a city that surveys rank as one of the world's most expensive.

A total of eight opposition parties had hoped to take advantage of the grumbling and big crowds had turned out for opposition rallies during the campaign, in which candidates focused on the bread-and-butter issues of jobs, healthcare and housing.

The PAP was forced to shift slightly to the left after its poor showing in 2011 to address an emboldened opposition's calls for a better deal for middle- and lower-class voters.

The government launched a multi-billion-dollar healthcare insurance programme for the elderly, introduced cooling measures for the property market and curbed the flow of foreign workers.