Voters handed Singapore’s ruling People’s Action Party (PAP) its second by-election defeat in eight months, giving the opposition another seat in parliament and signaling widening discontent over immigration policies and rising income inequality.
Opposition Workers’ Party candidate Lee Li Lian (李麗連) won 54.5 percent of about 29,800 votes cast on Saturday in the Punggol East district, beating three other candidates including the PAP’s Koh Poh Koon (徐禎遙), who received 43.7 percent.
The Workers’ Party now has seven seats in parliament and the PAP has 80.
“Despite this victory, the Workers’ Party is still a small party with much to do and improve upon,” party chairwoman Sylvia Lim (林瑞蓮) old reporters.
The PAP has been in power since 1959, but has seen its support decline in recent years, winning only 60 percent of the votes in the 2011 general election — its lowest share since independence in 1965 — as it struggles to stem rising discontent over the high cost of living, an influx of foreigners and rising income inequality.
The PAP “will continue to work to improve the lives of Singaporeans, and present our report card for voters to judge in the next general elections,” Singaporean Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong (李顯龍) said in a statement.
Lee had called the by-election after the sudden resignation of PAP lawmaker Michael Palmer over an extramarital affair, adding to a list of sex scandals that have rocked the city-state in the past year.
Analysts say the PAP defeat forces the party to re-examine policies that have brought popular discontent.
“This is a shock for the PAP,” said Bridget Welsh, an associate professor of political science at Singapore Management University. “They went to the polls so quickly with confidence and had expected to win. So, this is a devastating loss. It forces the PAP to have a very serious evaluation of their policies, and what they’ve done wrong.”