The next election must be held by January 2017 but is widely expected to be sooner to capitalize on the 50th year since modern Singapore’s founding, with major celebrations planned around National Day in August. The current parliament, which began on 10th October 2011, has a maximum term of five years. Elections are required within three months once it is dissolved.
The ruling People’s Action Party, or PAP, which Lee co-founded in 1954, has seen its support eroded amid a backlash against immigration and rising living costs. The party won by the smallest margin since independence half a century ago at elections in 2011 and lost a GRC for the first time.
“While Singaporeans respect and honor the memory of the late Lee Kuan Yew, they are also acutely aware that the present generation of ministers are coming up with policies that make life very stressful and tough for them,” said Chee Soon Juan, who heads the SDP. His party is keen on contesting Tanjong Pagar.
A by-election isn’t required under the constitution for GRCs when a seat is vacated due to death, Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong’s spokeswoman Chang Li Lin said in an e-mail. Lawmakers took on added duties when two parliament members in other districts died in 2008, Chang said.
“Dynamics have changed nationally and in Tanjong Pagar,” said Chia Ti Lik, secretary general of the Socialist Front which withdrew its plan to stand in 2011 including in Lee’s ward. Still, “the accolades that MM Lee received in his passing is a phenomenon that can’t be dismissed by the opposition in its evaluation of the electorate’s sentiment,” he said, referring to Lee’s position as Minister Mentor until 2011.
“The PAP has used threats of withholding of public housing upgrading and transport links to intimidate voters,” said Kenneth Jeyaretnam, head of the Reform Party. “The people must have a choice. We’ll certainly contest the ward if no one else is going to do so.”
Singaporeans First, which was formed in August, has done a “visibility walkabout” in Tanjong Pagar and may contest the ward depending on how electoral boundaries are redrawn ahead of the vote, according to its chairman Tan Jee Say, who was principal private secretary to then-Deputy Prime Minister Goh Chok Tong from 1985 to 1990.
“I think people want to see contests in the constituency because they have not voted in 27 years,” he said.
Lee first won his seat in 1955 with 78 percent of the vote in a three-way fight. In 1957, a by-election was held as Lee accepted another assemblyman’s challenge to resign and seek re-election as a test of public support. Lee secured his seat with 68 percent of the vote in another three-way battle.
Those who have stood against him in elections included businessmen, lawyers, a bookseller and school principal. One was jailed in the 1970s for criminal defamation and trying to incite violence against Lee. Tanjong Pagar, where the PAP was uncontested, had an electorate of 139,771 in 2011, and includes the [email protected], a public housing development with seven towers linked by rooftop parks. Tanjong Pagar was last contested in 1988, when it was a single seat ward, before Lee created multimember wards.