After tasting voters discontent in recent parliamentary elections, Singapore prime minister Lee Hsien Leung assured the electorate that he and the People’s Action Party which has ruled the city state for the last half century ‘will try harder’ to listen to the people.
Now after a recount–something unheard of in Singapore’s electoral vocabulary–the PAP backed Tony Tam, a former deputy prime minister, barely won.
The race for the largely symbolic post of the presidency with an annual salary of us$3.04 million, was fielded by not one, not two, but four candidates, all with the name of Tan. The ‘Straits Times’, which hews to PAP’s line, praised Tony Tan from day one.
Looking at the results, we find that in spite of the government’s powerful machinery, Tony Tan squeaked into office with 35.19 per cent of the 2.15 million votes cast. Second came Tan Cheung Bock, a PAP stalwart (who forced the recount) with 34.85 per cent. In third place, the Singaproe Democratic party’s Tan Jee Say showed a strong 25.05 per cent, which should send alarum bells ringing in the corridors of the PAP leadership, the more especially since his hearty support among the electorate uncovers simmering discontent with PAP long rule. And finally, Tan Kin Lian, a former PAP district official who broke with the party, garnered a mere 4.91 per cent, thus forfeiting the money he put up for the privilege of running for president.
Although PAP’s grip on governmental institution remains firm for the moment, internal currents swirling near the surface should be a warning to the PAP for more flexibility and meeting the needs and concerns of a young population coming to the fore.
Lee truly needs ‘to do more’ for the party’s survival. A telling sign is that his father Lee Kwan Yew (Harry) has abandoned his title as ‘minister mentor’ at the age of 88. He may advise his son still, but this Svengali’s power is waning, and the aging PAP leadership has not groomed younger vigorous politicians, only a generation of yes men and women. Tis a telling sign that PAP is headed into turbulent political waters in the future.