Singapore: Singapore Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong has secured a clear mandate with his ruling People's Action Party (PAP) winning 83 of the 93 contested parliamentary seats in the general election held amidst the COVID-19 pandemic, with the Opposition gaining ground by winning a record 10 seats.
The ruling party, in power since independence in 1965, secured 61.24 per cent of the total votes cast in the election, down from 69.9 per cent in 2015. About 2.6 million Singaporeans voted on Friday.
"We have a clear mandate, but the percentage of the popular vote is not as high as I had hoped for," 68-year old Lee told a PAP's post-results press conference on Saturday morning.
The opposition Workers' Party secured 10 seats and defeated a team in the Group Representation Constituency of Sengkang led by former Minister in the Prime Minister's Office Ng Chee Meng who is also the Secretary-General of the power National Trades Union Congress (NTUC).
The Prime Minister assured it is "only right" that Workers' Party's Indian-origin secretary-general Pritam Singh be formally designated as the Leader of the Opposition, and that he will be provided with appropriate staff support and resources to perform his duties.
Lee took the results in these circumstances as an endorsement of the party's policies and plans as he had called the elections amidst COVID-19 pandemic.
"We'll take this forward and work with Singapore to realise those plans and solve the problems which we have," Channel News Asia quoted the premier as saying.
Lee, who leads the PAP as secretary-general, said, "Singaporeans understand what's at stake and why we must come together to uphold our national interests."
He pledged to use this mandate "responsibly" to deal with the COVID-19 situation and economic downturn, to take Singapore "safely through the crisis and beyond".
"The results reflect the pain and uncertainty that Singaporeans feel in this crisis, the loss of income, the anxiety about jobs, the disruption caused by the circuit breaker and the safe distancing restrictions," he said.
"This was not a feel-good election," said Lee, Singapore's third prime minister who faces the city state's worst recession with economy projected to shrink between 7 and 4 per cent.
Lee acknowledged that the result also showed a "clear desire" for a diversity of voices in Parliament.
"Singaporeans want the PAP to form the government, but they, and especially the younger voters, also want to see more opposition presence in parliament," he noted.
Lee added that he looks forward to the participation and contribution of the Opposition in parliament.
Singh, whose Workers' Party team retained Aljunied Group Representation Constituency (GRC), will have 10 elected MPs now, up from six previously. His fellow member also retained the Hougang single member constituency seat.
"Whether it works out and whether it's seen as a strengthening of Singapore will depend not only on what the PAP does, but also on what the Opposition does because the Opposition now has 10 MPs elected from constituencies," said Lee.
He assured that the ruling party will listen to Singaporeans and do its best to address their concerns, and "try to win" their support, whether or not they voted for the PAP.
When asked by the media if the party had lost the youth vote, he noted that different generations have different life experiences, and the young have significantly different life aspirations and priorities compared to the older generations.
"That'll have to be reflected in our political process and in the government's policies, because in the end, the government's policies must be to achieve the aspirations of every generation of Singaporeans," Lee said, assuring Singaporeans.
He hoped that the new generations of Singaporeans look critically, but with an open mind at what previous generations have done, examine what's relevant and what continues to make sense to them in a new environment and learn from these experiences hard-won by their parents and grandparents.
"This is so that they do not have to learn them all over again and pay a high price which has already been paid."
Lee added that he was, naturally, disappointed at the loss of the newly formed Sengkang GRC, which the Workers' Party won with 52.13 per cent of the valid votes.
"Ng Chee Meng and his team -- Lam Pin Min, Amrin Amin and Raymond Lye -- always knew it was going to be a tough fight," he said.
"They gave it their all, but Sengkang voters have spoken, and we respect their decision."
Lee described it as a major loss to my team and to the fourth-generation leaders, especially as Ng is the secretary-general of the Labour Movement, the NTUC.
Singh, 43, told a press conference following the results that his team would continue to endeavor for good outcomes on the ground and to represent voters faithfully in parliament.
"Today's results are positive, but we have to hit the ground running. We should not get over our head with the results. There's much work to do. And I can assure you this Workers' Party team is committed to serve Singapore," he stressed.
The PAP contested all 93 seat and the Workers' Party 21 seats. Nine other political parties also contested the elections.
A total of 192 candidates contested for seats through 17 Group Representation Constituencies (GRCs)....