April 27, 2006

Singapore ruling PAP denied walkover election win

By Fayen Wong

SINGAPORE (Reuters) - Singapore's ruling People's Action
Party (PAP) has been denied a majority by walkover in a general
election for the first time in 18 years after opposition
parties on Thursday fielded candidates for more than half the
seats for the May 6 poll.

The main opposition parties -- the Workers' Party (WP), the
Singapore Democratic Alliance (SDA) and the Singapore
Democratic Party (SDP) -- will together contest 47 seats in the
84-seat parliament, according to a tally by state television.

"We don't have a majority, so we will fight this election,"
Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong told reporters.

In the past three elections -- in 2001, 1997, and 1991 --
the PAP won the election on nomination day, after the
opposition failed to put up candidates for more than half the

In November 2001, only a third of eligible voters had a
chance to cast their ballot, as only 29 of 84 seats were

The opposition has two seats in the outgoing parliament,
one for the Workers' Party, one for the SDA.

The coming poll would be the first test of popularity for
Lee, son of the city-state's founding father Lee Kuan Yew,
since he took over as prime minister in August 2004.

Workers' Party chairman Sylvia Lim told Reuters her party
would fight for more seats in parliament but did not expect to
topple the PAP government.

"There is no way the opposition will win every seat they
contest," she said.

The PAP, which is fielding 24 new candidates, is
campaigning on boosting the country's $118 billion economy and
helping the wealthy city-state's poor and elderly.

Analysts have no doubt the PAP will win Singapore's 10th
election since 1965, but it may face a tougher contest this
time as opposition parties, divided and marginalized in
previous elections, are better organized and have coordinated
their election strategies.

Like many previous elections, a defamation suit against one
of the opposition parties will hang over the campaign.

Lee and his father, Minister Mentor Lee Kuan Yew, have
launched a defamation suit against the Singapore Democratic
Party and eight of its leaders over articles in the SDP
newspaper, The New Democrat, which attacked the government for
its handling of a high-profile scandal at the National Kidney
Foundation charity.

PAP leaders have sued many opposition politicians for
defamation, bankrupting several in the process as they were
unable to pay the hefty damages.

The State Department says the threat of libel has crippled
the opposition and stifled political activity. PAP leaders say
the suits are necessary to protect their reputation.