Singapore’s ruling party, struggling to reverse a sharp drop in popularity, received a boost on Wednesday when the divided opposition fielded three candidates for a by-election.
The January 26 poll will give a fresh indication of the public mood two years after the People’s Action Party (PAP), in power for more than 50 years, suffered its worst ever general election result in May 2011.
The PAP, which also lost a by-election last year, is hoping for a morale-boosting win this month after launching measures to address voter gripes over issues such as immigration and the rising cost of living.
Analysts said a straight fight between the main opposition Workers’ Party and the PAP would have been close, but the emergence of two other candidates now gives the government an edge by splitting the anti-government vote.
“Yes, it’s advantage PAP now,” political scientist Reuben Wong of the National University of Singapore said after the opposition failed to agree on a common candidate.
The by-election resulted from the resignation of a rising PAP star, Michael Palmer, who quit as parliamentary Speaker and left the party in December after admitting to an extramarital affair.
The PAP and the Workers’ Party are both running candidates, as are two smaller parties. The latest entrant to the field, Desmond Lim of the fringe Singapore Democratic Alliance, denied he was playing a spoiler role.
“We are actually giving people a choice, to choose the party and the candidate they believe in and can serve them better,” he told reporters.
In the 2011 general election, the PAP’s share of the vote fell to an all-time low of 60 per cent, even though it retained 81 of the 87 seats in parliament. The Workers’ Party holds the other six seats.