Singapore’s Election: Ruling Party retains mandate but opposition scores improve

Updated On: May 09, 2006

The ruling People’s Action Party (PAP) was returned to power on election night (6 May) amassing 82 of the 84 seats in parliament, the same as in previous 2001 election, but with 66.6 per cent of popular votes, down from a high of 75.3% in 2001.

In response to the 66.6 per cent votes given to PAP, Minister Mentor (MM) Lee Kuan Yew expressed optimism, “It’s a strong mandate, considering how strongly the people wanted an opposition, some young people, and how strongly many journalists rooted for the opposition. It is not bad,” he said at a press conference.

PM Lee expressed similar sentiments, “This time, the result is very close to that of 1997 but we did a little better…From that standpoint, and given the many changes in society and the world during these 10 years, I think it is very good that we have been able to maintain such high level of support among Singaporeans.” He also made a point that the high percentage in 2001 was due to exceptional circumstances particularly the recession and Sept 11 terrorist attacks.

On the implications that this election would have on global business and domestic security, MM Lee added the benefits of a strong government, “I would say internationally, your big investors like ExxonMobil, Shell, the big pharmaceutical companies will say, this looks like a stable place with a government that’s going to last some time. And a rational government with policies which will be business-friendly and make sure that their enterprises will flourish and you will have jobs. That’s my assessment.” He also argues that “without a strong government, Singapore would not be able to face up to external challenges, such as the rise of China or India, or a sudden spike in oil prices sparked by crisis over Iran.”

What was significant in this election for the opposition parties – Workers Party’ (WP), Singapore Democratic Alliance (SDA) and the Singapore Democratic Party (SDP) – had put up a good slate of candidates and contested in more than half of the seats.  They denied PAP the victory that were claimed at Nomination Day for the last 3 elections, and put up a decent fight. This election could also mark a comeback of the Workers Party with its ability to attract young people to join the ranks of the opposition – something that had been made particularly difficult by the predominance of PAP, its perceived high-handed way of dealing with opposition and how the rules are skewed against the opposition.

“We are not thinking that we are going to overthrow the government overnight but people are sitting up and looking at the opposition in a more positive light,” said Glenda Han, a candidate from the Workers’ Party.

Several political analysts in Singapore have agreed that there is a core group of opposition supporters in Singapore which makes up approximately 30% of the population. “Voters were signaling their desire for an opposition to provide check and balance to the Government” said Dr Ho Khai Leong a political scientist.

Groups like Human Rights Watch have called for lifting of restrictions on speech and political lobbying. The Asian Network for Free Elections, which studied theSingapore’s electoral system recommended that the government create an independent elections department, make vote-counting accessible to the public, and liberalize the country’s media (Bloomberg, 7 May).  Whether the Singapore is ready to make these changes is yet to be seen.

Strong mandate good for S’pore: MM (Straits Times, 8 May 2006)
66.6% win surpasses PM’s own estimate (Straits Times, 8 May 2006)
Pundits call winning margin a strong mandate (Straits Times, 8 May 2006)
Results a boost for investors: MM (Today, 8 May 2006)
PM Lee has the mandate he wanted (Bernama, 7 May 2006)
 moving with the times (Malaysia Star, 8 May 2006)
PAP sweeps back to power (Malaysia Star, 7 May 2006)
’s PAP ruling party wins general election (Vietnam News Agency, 8 May 2006)
Singapore’s PAP wins again (Manila Times, 7 May 2006)
Singapore PM gets strong voter mandate (Bangkok Post, 7 May 2006)
Ruling party wins landslide in Singapore (CNN, 8 May 2006)
Lee may heed Singapore’s ‘Wake-up call” as opponents gain votes (Bloomberg, 7 May 2006)

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