Voting begins in Singapore as ruling party faces biggest test

Singapore, Sep 11: Singaporeans began voting today in a snap parliamentary election to elect the next government with Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong facing the stiffest political challenge of his career. There are 2.46 million eligible voters who will elect 89 members of parliament. Polls opened at 8:00 AM (0530 IST) for 12 hours and the results were expected by midnight (2130 IST).

Government has declared today a national holiday for citizens as voting is compulsory in the country, according to a report by the Channel News Asia.

Twenty-one Indian-origin Singaporeans are among 181 candidates who have filed their nominations to contest the snap general elections in which Loong’s ruling party’s 50 years of political dominance will be tested. Prominent Indian-origin candidates include Law and Foreign Minister K Shanmugam, Minister in the Prime Minister Office S Iswaran and Environment and Water Resources Minster Vivian Balakrishnan, all political heavyweights from the ruling People’s Action Party (PAP).

For the first time since independence, all 89 seats in 29 constituencies are being contested as opposition politicians challenge the government on issues related to migrants, cost of living, low wages, foreign workers competing for jobs, the stressed transportation system and the age limit on retirees to withdraw Central Provident Fund, a compulsory savings from salaries.

Seventy-six seats are for the 16 Group Representation Constituencies (GRCs) which allows the nomination and election of representation from the monitory community, mostly Malays, Indians and Eurasians in the pre-dominantly Chinese population. The remaining 13 seats are for Single-Member Constituencies (SMCs). Eight political parties are challenging the PAP and Prime Minister Loong.

Two independent candidates are contesting in the SMCs, making it a three-corner fight in the two constituencies while the opposition political parties have avoided multi-party contest and nominated candidates for a one-to-one challenge to the PAP contestants.

The opposition is made up of Workers’ Party, National Solidarity Party, Singapore Democratic Party, Reform Party, Singaporeans First, Singapore People’s Party, Singapore Democratic Alliance and People’s Power Party.

The PAP, which has ruled for more than 50 years, is widely expected to retain its overwhelming majority in the 89-seat parliament owing to a divided opposition; it holds 80 out of 87 seats.

But the party, whose founder and Singapore’s first prime minister Lee Kuan Yew died in March aged 91, is likely to be under pressure as citizens resent an increasing influx of foreigners and a high cost of living.