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Wednesday, May 11, 2011

SINGAPORE -- The outcome of Singapore's 2011 general election has sent a clear a
signal to the ruling People's Action Party (PAP) to seriously consider the
grievances of Singaporeans if it were to maintain its political dominance, says
Associate Professor Hussin Mutalib of the Political Science Department in the
National University of Singapore (NUS).

The polls have shown that there has been a change in the city-state's political
landscape and that the time for change for the PAP has come, he said in an
interview with Bernama.
"If they (PAP) do not ride along this tide of change, especially over the
younger generation, a lot more voices will be joining the opposition in the next
election," he said, adding that the stakes could be very high.
"It is not only for the PAP but also opposition parties which need to prove
themselves and force PAP to implement change.
"The faster they (opposition) can do this, they can create their own image and
identity. If they can do that, they will have a vibrant parliament with a lot of
alternative voices and that will be good for Singapore," he said.

Hussin said that if one looked at the statistics since Singapore's independence
in 1965, and all the general elections from then until now, this was the first
time that the opposition secured a large number of electoral votes as well as
the largest number of seats -- six.
Winning six seats may not be a big deal when compared with other countries in
South East Asia like Malaysia, he said.
"But in the context of Singapore, this is big news as Singaporeans had never
experienced this before, that is why it is historic," he declared.
The PAP, led by Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong, won 81 of the 87 parliamentary
seats, including five uncontested seats of Tanjong Pagar Group Representation
Constituency (GRC), last Saturday.
In the 2006 polls, the PAP had won 82 of the 84 seats at stake. The PAP's total
number of electoral votes dropped to 60 per cent compared to 67 per cent in the
previous election.
With the exception of the 1988 and 2006 general elections, the PAP had always
returned to power on Nomination Day. But this GE saw it only securing one GRC on
when nomination closed on April 27.

Hussin said there was a dire need for transformation to address the grievances
of Singaporeans as many of them seemed dissatisfied with current policies and
issues like the high cost of foodstuffs, housing and others.
Asked whether these issues had fallen on deaf ears, Hussin replied,"I think the
Prime Minister acknowledged them."
Hsien Loong pledged after the polls to look after the best interests of
Singaporeans following the strong mandate from them.
"We hear all your voices," said Lee, who had sought his second mandate as prime
minister.

Hussin lamented on the speed that new policies were passed and that some
sections of the population seemed to have been ignored.
"For example, we need to bring in foreign talents, but if we bring so many of
them in a short period of time, it upsets many Singaporeans. The number of
foreigners coming into Singapore is very significant in the last four to five
years," he said.
For the locals, they perceive this as depriving them of job opportunities and
incomes, and even leading to increased house prices. The
crowded public transport system in trains and buses as well as the issue of
low-wages are also sore points.
Foreigners currently make up 36 per cent of Singapore's population of 5.1
million, up from about 20 per cent out of four million people a decade ago.
Despite the great economic growth achieved by one of Asia's wealthiest nations,
many poorer Singaporeans feel that they have fallen through the cracks as
government policy is centred on expansion and attracting foreign investment.
Although the gross domestic product (GDP) grew by 14.5 percent last year, 
government data showed that Singapore's average household income rose by only 
3.1 percent, or 0.3 percent after adjusting for inflation, to S5,000 ($4,022) a
month last year.
The Department of Statistices said the city-state's bottom 10 percent of
households, with at least one working member, had an average monthly income of
S$1,400 last year versus S$23,684 for households in the top 10 per cent.
On former foreign minister George Yeo who was defeated at the hotly-contested
AlJuneid GRC, Hussin said Yeo had publicly said before the polls that he saw
anger and resentment against the government.
Yeo had said his party had to undergo a transformation if it wanted to engage
the new generation of Singaporeans as they felt that the PAP was too arrogant
and high-handed.
Hussin said Yeo's statement had in some ways brought about a negative impact for
the PAP and that it was unfortunate for Yeo, a highly-calibred minister, could
no longer play a critical role in politics because of his defeat.
For the PAP, Hussin said it has to do what Yeo prescribed -- change in order to
win over more Singaporeans.
The academician also felt that the real election for Singapore's future would be
contested in the next one as the seeds for more younger professionals to join
politics had been sown in the just-completed polls, which also saw a tremendous
increase in the use of the social media such as Facebook, twitter and blogs for
campaigning.
(Bernama)

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