Singapore's ruling party yesterday celebrated a landslide victory in parliamentary elections that signaled continuity in the city-state's trademark mix of economic success, social stability and tight political controls.
The final results of Saturday's elections showed Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong's (
The breakdown of seats, with two for the opposition, is unchanged from the outgoing parliament.
The result was widely expected, but the percentage of votes won by the ruling party dropped to 66.6 percent from 75.3 percent in the last election in 2001, indicating that more Singaporeans want new voices in government.
The PAP has won every general election since Singapore became independent in 1965, bolstered by its transformation of the resource-scarce former British colony into one of Asia's richest, most stable societies.
The state's sharp limits on speech and assembly have undercut the struggling opposition, and ruling party leaders have sidelined some opponents with defamation suits that have rendered them bankrupt, making them ineligible for office.
Lee said yesterday that voters had rejected an opposition "more interested in impressing foreign supporters," referring to a low vote count for the Singapore Democratic Party of Chee Soon Juan (
Chee is a frequent critic of the government's tight controls on free speech.
The vote was the first electoral test of the 54-year-old Lee's popularity since the son of national founder and former prime minister Lee Kuan Yew (
"We have a lot of work ahead of us," Lee said. "I want also to continue to encourage open, serious debate on issues because neither the PAP nor the government, nor, may I say, the opposition, has all the solutions and answers to all the questions and problems."
Since assuming power in 2004, Lee has promised a more open society. Critics say little has changed since the time his father ran the country from independence until 1990.
Ruling party leaders had dismissed suggestions that politics in Singapore amounted to one-party rule, saying they would welcome a vigorous contest with a credible opposition. They called many of the current opposition figures inexperienced or incompetent.
Lee, who said some Singa-poreans may have voted for the opposition because of rising costs, had campaigned on a pledge not to leave behind the poor, the elderly and the unemployed.
Opposition leaders said they had put up a good fight.
"We are not thinking that we are going to overthrow the government overnight," said Glenda Han (
"People are sitting up and looking at the opposition in a more positive light," she said.
Many Singaporeans view the PAP as the safest choice, and its candidates said constituencies that vote for them will get priority in government funds for housing upgrades and other benefits.
Some people, especially among the younger generation, say they want more public debate and a loosening of controls.
Candidates for the opposition highlighted a growing income disparity between the rich and poor in the city-state of 4.3 million, where some people struggle financially despite the country's status as a high-tech, manufacturing hub.