SINGAPORE: A by-election in Singapore today is putting a spotlight on strains and discontent in one of Asia’s wealthiest countries and biggest success stories: The transformation of a post-colonial backwater into an economic powerhouse. The dominant People’s Action Party (PAP) that has ruled Singapore for more than half a century faces the risk of a humiliating loss in Punggol East, a relatively young and affluent ward.
It won’t change the balance of power in parliament, where the PAP holds 81 of 87 elected seats. But a loss — or even a very narrow win — would send a troubling signal to the PAP, founded by the prime minister’s father, Lee Kuan Yew, and winner of every national election since independence in 1965. “I feel that our complete trust in the PAP in the past is dangerous,” Workers Party chief Low Thia Khiang told a rally, exhorting voters to back his candidate, Lee Li Lian, and blaming the government’s immigration polices for crowding out jobs and straining Singapore’s famously efficient infrastructure.
The PAP won Punggol East with 54 percent of the vote in 2011 but how close today’s by-election will be is hard to predict: election polling is illegal in the regimented city-state that is a hub for banks and multinational companies.