By Mason Quah
THE centre-right People’s Action Party (PAP) of Singapore have retained their hold over the city state’s governance, claiming 83 of the 93 parliamentary seats.
What to foreigners seems an overwhelming victory for the party instead reveals a much different story: gods can bleed, and the PAP might not rule forever.
“We have a clear mandate, but the percentage of the popular vote is not as high as I had hoped for and we lost one GRC,” said Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong to a press conference following the results.
“Nevertheless, the result reflects broad-based support for the PAP.”
The ‘lost GRC’ refers to a Group Representation Constituency, an electoral division in which candidates run as a team.
Where the previous election saw the opposition Worker’s Party holding one GRC and six seats this has doubled to two GRCs and 10 seats. The Worker’s Party claimed the New Sengkang GRC with an unexpected 52% of the votes, buoyed by the charisma of popular candidates such as Dr Jamus Lim.
On the campaign trail Lim acknowledged that the worker’s party is not going to undo the 60 year supermajority overnight. The goal instead was to establish a credible opposition that can inject diverse voices into public debate.
“The PAP does not have a monopoly on the best ideas of how we should bring this society forward,” explained the economist. “What we are trying to deny the PAP isn’t a mandate. What we’re trying to deny them is a blank cheque.”
The PAP have dominated every Singaporean Parliament since the nation’s independence in 1959. The Supermajority achieved on the 10th of July is the second weakest in the party’s history, winning 61% of the popular vote.
Placing this in line with the 2011 outcome of 60% reveals that the PAP may not rule eternal. While only one GRC flipped in the election, the Worker’s Party enjoyed a much consolidated lead in their existing seats and presented a strong contest in other battleground Constituencies.
The lead up to the election was framed by all sides around the PAP’s mandate to act on the Covid-19 crisis. This mandate has been defended, but must justify itself to credible opposition going into the future.
Change in Singapore may be slow to arrive, but is visible on the horizon.
Faith in the PAP’s 4G leadership seems to be considerably weaker compared to the party’s past leadership.
Among voters who are swinging away from the PAP there is still a strong historical reverence to the previous generations of PAP leadership, often nucleating around Lee Kuan Yew, the first Prime Minister who piloted the fledgeling nation through their formative years and entrenched Singapore as a powerful trading economy.
Seen as the father of the nation, Lee Hsien Loong inherits a degree of this reverence as his first son.
Despite this, Lee Hsien Loong entered Singaporean politics in a very different landscape to the times of struggle seen shortly after independence.
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