Singapore ruling party wins elections, returns to power
(Associated Press) - September 11, 2015 - 1:00pm

SINGAPORE — As expected, the party that has ruled Singapore since it became a country a half-century ago returned to power for five more years after easily winning Friday's general election.

With results for most of the seats announced, the People's Action Party had won an overwhelming majority of 79 seats in the 89-member Parliament while the opposition Workers' Party had one seat. Votes in the remaining nine seats were still being counted.

Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong, who won the Ang Mo Kio constituency, thanked his supporters for giving "us this very good result."

"We are very grateful, we are very happy, but at the same time, we are very humbled by the result. ... Tomorrow will be better than today. SG100 will be better than SG50," he said, referring to the 50 years that the PAP has ruled Singapore since independence in 1965.

It has won every election since then and this is the 12th time that it will form a government. Since independence, the PAP had also won every seat in Parliament until 1981 after which the opposition started winning one or two seats. Its best performance was in 2011 when the Workers' Party won six seats, and added one more to its tally in a by-election.

Friday's result indicates the opposition failed to make a dent despite highlighting the country's various problems such as income disparity, restrictions on free speech, overcrowding caused by immigration, and the rising cost of living — Singapore is the world's most expensive city, according to an international survey.

The PAP also benefited from a sympathy wave following the death of Singapore's founding father, Lee Kuan Yew, in March. Lee, a PAP stalwart, became the country's first prime minister in 1965 and remained in office until 1990. The current prime minister is his son. He has been in office since 2004. In between, another PAP leader, Goh Chok Tong, was prime minister.

Critics say the PAP gets an unfair advantage because of a system in which some constituencies, such as Lee's Ang Mo Kyo, are represented by a group of four to six lawmakers. In a winner-takes-all, first-past-the-post system, all members of the victorious team get entry into Parliament. The PAP usually fields a stalwart along with lightweight politicians whereas the opposition is hard pressed to find a heavy lifter to lead a group.

But in 2011, the Workers' Party wrested one such multi-candidate ward, Aljunied, from the PAP, sending five candidates to Parliament out of the seven seats it won. The result for that ward has not been announced yet pending a recount sought by PAP, suggesting that Workers' Party may have won it again.

About 2.46 million people out of a population of 5.47 million were eligible to vote, up from 2.35 million in 2011, with an increased number of voters born after independence. Most of these young voters take Singapore's prosperity, stability and a corruption-free, low-crime society for granted. These have been the main selling points of the PAP in past elections, which appealed to the first few generations that saw Singapore rise from a backward trading port city to a thriving and technologically advanced metropolis, and the ninth richest country in the world.

But voters are now asking uncomfortable questions about the restrictions on free speech and media, which they had been willing to sacrifice in return for economic prosperity. They also see an increasing number of immigrants from all over Asia, filling not only low-paying jobs but also middle-level and high-paying positions.

There have also been questions about the country's much-vaunted pension scheme with many wondering if retirees are reaping real benefits. In the last quarter ending in June, Singapore's economy contracted by 4 percent, and the annual growth rate is projected to be 1.8 percent.

The Workers' Party contested 28 seats and eight other smaller opposition parties and two independents are contested the remaining seats.

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