Tiny opposition victory excites Singapore


Singapore citizens watch polling results from in the country's 11th elections since independence. The 2011 general election has been the most contested in Singapore's history with 82 seats out of 87 being contested.


Chris McGrath

As one analyst put it to Bloomberg, “This is about as enticing as it can get in Singapore."

What's so exciting? An opposition party won six parliamentary seats in an election this weekend. That's right. Six.

But that tiny victory is huge news in the wealthy, five million population city state. Though it's unlikely to change the status quo, voters delivered the largest opposition victory in the country's history.

Since its independence in 1965, a single party has led the island. Granted, the People's Action Party has done wonders for Singapore's economy and quality of life. In a region of where a urban centers are sprawling, smog-choked and generally chaotic, little Singapore is envied. It's clean, efficient, everyone speaks English and you can even drink out of the tap.

Such order, however, has come at the expense of political freedom.

Government critics have been hit with crushing, bankrupting demfamation suits. A journalist who examined Singapore's death row in a recent book caught jail time, more than $15,000 in fines and charges that he maligned the judiciary and undermined public faith in the courts. A well-known opposition figure was recently forced to pay $16,000 for "making an address in a public place without a license."

So what does this recent election show? That the overwhelming majority of Singaporeans still prefer the party that led them to prosperity --  even thought they've secured their rule with draconian clampdowns along the way.

That said, the ruling party will still need to start "soul-searching" to adapt to a "new electorate," Prime Minister Lee Hsieng Loong told the Straits Times.