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Asia Minute: Opposition Gains in Singapore Election

AP Photo
Voters, wearing face masks, cast their votes at the Chung Cheng High School polling center in Singapore, Friday, July 10, 2020.

Mail-in ballots will start to go out to voters around the state next week. Elections in Hawaii are entirely by mail this year, but that's not the case in one country in Southeast Asia that just wrapped up national voting.

Singapore’s ruling party is returning to power for another term with a sizeable edge in seats in parliament. The People’s Action Party took 83 of 93 seats.

In most political discussions, that would be called a landslide.

But those ten seats that went to the opposition Workers’ Party? That was a record — the strongest showing by any political rival in the country’s history. The PAP was in power in Singapore even before it broke away from Malaysia to become an independent country in 1965.

Weekend analysis showed the party took only about 61% of the popular vote — down from 70% in 2015.  

The results mean another term for Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong — in power since 2004.

He’s the son of Singapore’s founder Lee Kuan Yew, and only the third prime minister in the country’s history. The younger Lee has overseen economic growth, but critics say COVID-19 has exposed some weaknesses in Singapore — from the treatment of migrant workers packed into overcrowded dormitories to the country’s reliance on globalism.

Despite the pandemic, mail-in voting was not allowed in this election, but that did not deter Singaporeans. Voter turn-out set a new record for general election: 96% of eligible voters.

Bill Dorman has been the news director at Hawaiʻi Public Radio since 2011.
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