Sun, May 07, 2006 - Page 4 News List

Singaporeans cast their votes in elections

AP , SINGAPORE

Singaporeans voted yesterday in elections expected to deliver a landslide win for the ruling party and its leader Lee Hsien Loong (李顯龍), the son of the island nation's founding father now seeking his own mandate to rule.

The invitation from the ruling People's Action Party (PAP) is clear: vote for us and we will deliver more of Singapore's trademark economic success and social stability.

Most Singaporeans are likely to heed the call, but some say the government needs new voices and looser controls.

The PAP -- which has won every general election held since Singapore became independent in 1965 -- maintains sharp limits on freedom of speech and assembly, and its leaders have sidelined some opposition figures with defamation suits that have rendered them bankrupt, making them ineligible for office.

Any suspense in the election lies in whether the struggling opposition can boost its number of elected seats beyond two out of a total of 84. In a bold gesture, the opposition Workers' Party is challenging Lee in his stronghold of Ang Mo Kio.

The poll is the first electoral test of Lee's popularity since he took over as prime minister from Goh Chok Tong (吳作棟) in August 2004.

Lee, 54, is the son of former prime minister Lee Kuan Yew (李光耀), who is credited with turning Singapore into one of Asia's richest, most stable societies.

The government dismisses charges that Singapore is run by a political dynasty, and says its leaders are judged on their merits. The elder Lee still wields wide influence over Singaporean affairs as Minister Mentor in his son's Cabinet.

At a campaign rally on Friday, the prime minister asked Singaporeans for a strong mandate, and pledged not to leave the poor, the elderly and the unemployed behind.

The republic's trade-dependent economy grew by more than 10 percent in the first three months of this year -- topping initial estimates of 9.1 percent, he said.

The other opposition parties running in the election are the Singapore Democratic Alliance and the Singapore Democratic Party.

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