SINGAPORE: The People’s Action Party (PAP) has a “clear mandate”, but the percentage of the popular vote is not as high as Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong had hoped for, he said following the results of the 2020 General Election (GE).
The PAP won 83 out of 93 seats in Parliament, and 61.2 per cent of the popular vote. Mr Lee described the vote share as “respectable”.
Despite losing the new Sengkang GRC to the Workers’ Party (WP), Mr Lee said the overall result “reflects broad-based support for the PAP”.
“We have a clear mandate, but the percentage of the popular vote is not as high as I had hoped for,” he said during the PAP’s post-results press conference.
He said the PAP will take its 83-seat win in “these circumstances” as an “endorsement” of the party’s policies and plans. “We’ll take this forward and work with Singapore to realise those plans and solve the problems which we have.”
Mr Lee, the secretary-general of the PAP, said: “Singaporeans understand what’s at stake and why we must come together to uphold our national interests.”
He pledged to use this mandate “responsibly” to deal with the COVID-19 situation and economic downturn, to take Singapore “safely through the crisis and beyond”.
“The results reflect the pain and uncertainty that Singaporeans feel in this crisis, the loss of income, the anxiety about jobs, the disruption caused by the circuit breaker and the safe distancing restrictions,” he said.
This was not a “feel-good” election, he added.
At the press conference, he was accompanied by Deputy Prime Minister Heng Swee Keat, Trade and Industry Minister Chan Chun Sing, Law and Home Affairs Minister K Shanmugam, Environment and Water Resources Minister Masagos Zulkifli and Culture, Community and Youth Minister Grace Fu.
DESIRE FOR DIVERSITY OF VOICES
Mr Lee said the result also showed a “clear desire” for a diversity of voices in Parliament.
“Singaporeans want the PAP to form the government, but they, and especially the younger voters, also want to see more opposition presence in Parliament,” he said.
He added that he looks forward to the participation and contribution of the Opposition in Parliament.
He said it is “only right” that WP chief Pritam Singh be “formally designated” as the Leader of the Opposition, and that he will be provided with “appropriate staff support and resources to perform his duties”.
The WP, which also retained Aljunied GRC, will have 10 elected MPs now, up from six previously.
“Whether it works out … and whether it’s seen as a strengthening of Singapore will depend not only on what the PAP does, but also on what the Opposition does because the Opposition now has 10 MPs elected from constituencies,” said Mr Lee.
He said the ruling party will listen to Singaporeans and do its best to address their concerns, and “try to win” their support, whether or not they voted for the PAP.
When asked by the media if the party had lost the youth vote at this GE, he noted that different generations have different life experiences, and the young have significantly different life aspirations and priorities compared to the older generations.
“That’ll have to be reflected in our political process and in the Government’s policies, because in the end, the Government’s policies must be to achieve the aspirations of every generation of Singaporeans,” he said.
He hoped that new generations of Singaporeans “look critically, but with an open mind” at what previous generations have done, “examine what’s relevant and what continues to make sense to them in a new environment” and “learn from these experiences hard won by their parents and grandparents”.
This is so that they do not have to “learn them all over again and pay a high price which has already been paid”.
“The generations have to work together in order to achieve that and not have a disconnect, and find ourselves with no historical memory,” he said.
A "SIGNIFICANT LOSS" TO 4G LEADERSHIP
Mr Lee added that he was, naturally, disappointed at the loss of the newly formed Sengkang GRC, which the WP won with 52.13 per cent of the valid votes.
“Ng Chee Meng and his team — Lam Pin Min, Amrin Amin and Raymond Lye — always knew it was going to be a tough fight,” he said. “They gave it their all, but Sengkang voters have spoken, and we respect their decision.”
Three of the team, Mr Ng, Dr Lam and Mr Amrin, are political office-holders.
Mr Lee described it as a “major loss to my team” and to the fourth-generation leaders, especially as Mr Ng is the secretary-general of the Labour Movement.
He added that he had spoken to Mr Ng and his team to thank them and encourage them to continue serving the party and Singapore in different ways.
“The PAP will strive to win back Sengkang GRC. We’ll also continue to fight to win back Aljunied GRC and Hougang SMC,” said Mr Lee.
“My team and I will serve all Singaporeans, whichever party you voted for. Whether or not you voted for the PAP, we’ll listen to you, do our best to address your concerns and try to win your support.”
In response to questions from the media, he again pointed out that it would be a “loss” not to have the four in his team of MPs or as members of his Cabinet.
“But we’ll move forward and move on from here, as we did after Aljunied went to the Opposition in 2011,’ he added.
LOOKING BEYOND THE ELECTIONS
With the elections over, Mr Lee said “we need to put all our differences aside, close ranks and work together on the task at hand, which is to get us through the crisis”.
The challenges ahead call for not only a whole-of-Government response, but a whole-of-the-nation response.
He noted that the new PAP team will include 24 first-time MPs, who will “reinforce the renewal process” of the party. The new candidates have performed well, he said, mentioning candidates like Ms Gan Siow Huang and Mr Yip Hon Weng, both of whom contested in single-seat constituencies as “newbies”.
“Thank you for giving them the chance to show what they can do for you,” he said.
In response to a question on what he would say to the business community following the election results, Mr Lee said the PAP Government would “continue to fight to persuade them” that Singapore is worthy of their confidence and investment.
“We'll demonstrate that this is so by the way we take Singapore forward from here,” he said.
“It also depends on how the Opposition conducts itself to convince them that, in fact, there is, in Singapore, responsible opposition who understand the national interest and put that before party politics.”
Mr Heng said the work of restructuring Singapore’s economy and transforming industries “must continue”.
“The work of protecting jobs, saving jobs and creating new jobs must continue,” he said as he echoed Mr Lee's view in adding that “the Opposition must be prepared to work together in order to safeguard our national interest”.
Mr Lee also said that while he has been preparing the 4G team to take over the reins for many years, he did not expect to meet with an “overwhelming” crisis in the “last stretch” of his leadership.
With his older colleagues, he will see the crisis through, he reaffirmed.
“I’m determined to hand over Singapore intact and in good working order to the next team,” he said, adding that the work of the new government begins “at once”.
“My government will work with all of you to overcome the present health and economic crisis and emerge stronger,” he said. “With this election now behind us, let’s work as one Singapore to secure our lives, our jobs and our future.”