SINGAPORE – Singapore's prime minister on Saturday lauded the city-state's youth vote for helping return his party to power in a massive election victory, and reversing a worrying drop in popularity it suffered in the last polls five years ago.
The ruling People's Action Party got 83 of the 89 seats in Parliament while the opposition Workers' Party captured six in Friday's elections.
"It is a good result for the PAP, but it is an excellent result for Singapore," Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong said in the early hours of Saturday, after final results were announced. He said the result would not have been possible without broad support from all sections of the society.
"And in particular, it could not have been done without strong support from the young ... it shows that the young people understand what is at stake, support what we are doing, really to secure a bright future for Singapore," he said.
The victory of the People's Action Party was never in doubt — it has won every election since independence in 1965 — but what was notable was the percentage of votes it secured: nearly 70 percent of all votes cast compared to 60 percent in the 2011 elections.
A day after the election, candidates of various political parties were up early to thank residents through walkabouts and victory parades in open-top vehicles.
The huge sweep means the struggling opposition made no headway despite highlighting problems like income disparity, restrictions on free speech, overcrowding caused by immigration, infrequent breakdown in public transportation and the rising cost of living. The PAP had campaigned on the theme that voting for the opposition would produce a second-rate government and squander the economic gains achieved during the last 50 years.
The message resonated with voters and perhaps even scared the fence-sitters into going back to a tried and trusted party, resulting in the stronger mandate for PAP.
"What I can say is that this is not ... a mandate for the PAP's economic policies," said Kenneth Jeyaretnam, secretary-general of the Reform Party, which did not win any seats.
"All this is a mandate for authoritarianism and brainwashing. It shows what you do when you control everybody's housing, you control their savings, you control their jobs because you're the major employer, you control all the media," he said.
The timing of the election also made a difference -- it was called right after Singapore's 50th birthday celebrations on Aug. 9 while nationalist feelings were still high, and months after the death on March 23 of Singapore's founding leader Lee Kuan Yew, the father of Prime Minister Lee.
The senior Lee became the country's first prime minister in 1965 and remained in office until 1990, a period of rapid development and prosperity. His son has been prime minister since 2004.
Associated Press writer Vijay Joshi in Bangkok contributed to this report.