Election shock for Singapore regime
Singapore’s ruling People’s Action Party lost a byelection with the widest margin in almost three decades, signalling prime minister Lee Hsien Loong may struggle to claw back support as the cost of living climbs.
The Workers’ Party’s Lee Li Lian (34) won 54.5 per cent of votes in the four-way race in the northeastern Punggol East district over the weekend, a 10.8 percentage point lead over the ruling party’s candidate.
That’s the most for a district held by the PAP since the 1984 general elections, according to data from the elections department.
Record-high housing and transport costs, public discontent over an influx of foreigners, and infrastructure strains are weakening approval for the only party that has ruled Singapore since independence in 1965.
Its policies, which have helped forge southeast Asia’s only advanced economy, are now being questioned by voters, many of whom are looking for a government that is less authoritative and more consultative.
“The scope of the loss indicates that it is national and there is something fundamentally wrong with the way the PAP is operating,” said Bridget Welsh, a political science professor at the Singapore Management University. “The voters are saying they really want a rethink of some of the government’s policies.”
The results extended the loss in the 2011 general elections, when a record six opposition members, all from the Workers’ Party, were elected into the 87-seat Parliament.
The prime minister said after the poll that byelections tended to be tougher for the ruling party, and he would continue to focus on policies for the longer term that may take more time to yield results. This month his administration said it would give priority housing to families with children and provide greater childcare subsidies.