April 27, 2011
Singapore General Elections 2011: Lee Kuan Yew returned unopposed in Tanjung Pagar
(Reuters) – Lee Kuan Yew, the founder of modern Singapore, was returned unopposed to parliament on Wednesday, but his long-ruling People’s Action Party (PAP) faces its toughest ever challenge at the polls from the city-state’s tiny opposition.
Eighty-two of the 87 seats in parliament will be contested in the general election on May 7, state media reported after nominations closed, the highest number ever. The only exception was the 5-seat constituency where Lee and four other PAP candidates were declared elected unopposed.
“I would have welcomed a contest,” said the frail-looking, 87-year-old Lee, dressed in trademark white shirt and trousers. “I assure you I will look after you for the next five years.”
Hundreds of PAP workers shouted and waved party flags as Lee, “minister mentor” in the cabinet, walked back slowly but unaided to his car after the nominations closed.
There is no suggestion the PAP could lose power. The party won 82 of the 84 seats in the last election, but faces criticism from voters over a surge in housing prices and the high cost of living, despite steering the economy out of recession in 2009 to last year’s record 14.5 percent growth.
Lee was prime minister from independence in 1965 until 1990, and his son, Lee Hsien Loong, is the current prime minister. The elder Lee is credited with the transformation of Singapore from a third-world, newly independent backwater into the shiny first-world financial centre it is today.
“Do not rock this foundation. Remember where Singapore came from and how difficult it was that we have got to where we are,” he said in a statement this week. “In the heat and dust of this election, do not risk your assets, property values, job opportunities. Make the right choice.”
Despite its stellar growth, opponents have criticised Singapore’s restrictions on political freedoms and on the press. The PAP’s near monopoly in previous elections has in part resulted from scores of walkovers in constituencies that the opposition did not contest.
This time the Workers’ Party, the largest of the clutch of opposition groups, has said it is aiming to win one multi-seat constituency, or five seats.It has put up its biggest stars — Chairwoman Sylvia Lim, sitting MP Low Thia Khiang and corporate lawyer Chen Show Mao — into the same constituency, which is likely to be the most keenly watched of all the contests.
There was some controversy over the walkover in Lee’s constituency. An opposition alliance filed nomination papers but election officials said they did not do so within the allotted time.
“It’s a feeble effort to show that they wanted to contest,” Lee said. “But everybody knows if you want to contest you go before 12 o’clock.”
(Additional reporting by Kevin Lim and Walter Sim; Editing by Alex Richardson)