Singapore People's Action Party suffered a heavy loss in Punggol East by-election yesterday, leaving the longtime ruling party pondering on the peoples' expectation amid its effort in improving the economy and introducing more measures to help them brace the rising cost of living.
I believe it sent a strong signal to the government of PM Lee Hsien Loong that the island-republic will have to engage a new political approach to deal with its socio-economic tensions and mounting demand for better public services.
Lee Li Lian (picture) of the
Workers' Party took 16,038 of the valid votes, defeating the ruling People's Action Party
(PAP) by a narrow margin in a four-corner contest.
PAP's Koh Poh Koon received 12,856 votes.
The two other contestants, Reform Party's Kenneth Jeyaretnam, took 353
votes and Singapore Democratic Alliance's Desmond Lim had 168 votes.
Total votes cast was 29,832, with 417 rejected votes.
Defeat for the incumbent PAP comes amid rising public complaints in the
city-state over high living costs, infrastructure shortcomings,
immigration, and a widening gap between rich and poor. Those concerns
remain despite measures taken after the ruling party's slimmest-ever
general election win in May 2011, when its vote share fell 6.5
percentage points to 60.1 per cent.
Voters had already chastened Singapore's establishment in three
earlier elections in the last two years. The PAP, which has held power
since 1959, was stunned at the general election in May 2011, when its
vote share fell to the lowest level since Singapore became a nation in
1965. The ruling party's favored candidate then scraped a win in an
unexpectedly heated presidential election in August that year, before a
third setback in a by-election last May.
Since the May 2011 vote, the PAP government has taken steps to cool a
buoyant housing market, help low-income families, and slow the inflow
of immigrants and foreign workers that has helped boost Singapore's
population by over 27 per cent since 2002 to 5.3 million people - measures that
businesses leaders say will slow economic growth and drive up labor
costs. But home prices are still rising, and a spate of recent labor
disputes has focused attention on the large migrant workforce.
It’s a sign that Singaporeans are now looking to have more opposition
voices in Parliament, and the WP is in the best position to pick up
support from voters looking for an alternative. The other parties have
yet to garner the same amount of support – and votes – as the WP.
As a politician, Lee has often highlighted the challenges faced by
young families in Singapore, especially the difficulties for single
parents. Her election has not only increased the representation of women
in Parliament, but will hopefully provide a voice for an issue in need
of further discussion and debate.
And of course the opposition victory will inspire Pakatan Rakyat's de facto leader Anwar Ibrahim in his bid to takeover Putrajaya in our upcoming 13th general election. He will capitalise on the PAP's loss as an evident that our longtime ruling party Barisan Nasional cannot hold the power forever.
Prior to the national poll, Anwar is already saying the whole world was ready to recognise him as our next prime minister.
I also believe BN and PM Datuk Seri Najib Tun Razak are aware of the challenge and making preparations to avoid the ruling party to suffer what Japanese LDP had experienced in 2009.