|Workers' Party candidate Lee Li Lian (C, front) shows her appreciation to the residents of Punggol East in Singapore, Jan. 27, 2013. Singapore's opposition Workers' Party won the by-election for the Punggol East single member constituency on Saturday with a surprising margin. (Xinhua/Then Chih Wey)
SINGAPORE, Jan. 26 (Xinhua) -- Singapore's opposition Workers' Party won the by-election for the Punggol East single member constituency on Saturday with a surprising margin.
The victory of the opposition candidate Lee Li Lian brought the number of elected seats held by the Workers' Party to seven, out of a total of 87 elected seats in the parliament.
Lee won 16,038, or 54.52 percent of the valid votes cast on Saturday, while Koh Poh Koon of the ruling People's Action Party won 12,856, or 43.71 percent of the votes in the four-cornered fight on Saturday that also saw two other opposition candidates contesting.
There were a total of some 31,600 registered voters in Singapore and 59 voters overseas. Singapore has a mechanism that encourages all voters to cast their votes and the voter turnout was 94.26 percent.
The by-election has been widely regarded as a test for the People's Action Party, which has been the ruling party in the city state since 1959. It now still has 80 of the 87 elected seats in the parliament.
The constituencies in Singapore include two categories, namely, the single member constituencies and the group representation constituencies, which were introduced in 1991 to ensure that the minority communities of the Malay and the Indian are represented. In a group representation constituency, all the candidates must either be members of the same political party or independent candidates standing as a group, and at least one of the candidates must be a person belonging to the minority community.
The People's Action Party won 81 of the 87 elected seats in the general election in 2011, but it lost a group representation constituency for the first time since 1991 and the share of the popular votes it won fell to slightly above 60 percent.
The by-election was called after Michael Palmer, a lawmaker of the ruling party, resigned recently over an extramarital affair.
Observers had expected a close race, and some had believed that the other two opposition candidates might dilute the support for the Workers' Party. Gillian Koh, senior research fellow at the Institute of Policy Studies, Lee Kuan Yew School of Public Policies, National University of Singapore, said that the results turned out to be "not all that close."
"It's always hard to contest a by-election, especially when you have been there as the ruling party for over 50 years," she said in a live coverage of the election by local broadcaster Channel NewsAsia.
The People's Action Party, which faces pressure on topics such as immigration and population, has been trying to maneuver an obvious change in its direction to roll out policies in education and welfare that put Singaporeans first.
Lee had campaigned vigorously in the constituency this time, covering all the neighborhoods in the ward in her visits. She also put forward proposals that favor young couples raising children.
She thanked her supporters, voters and volunteers and vowed to serve the residents in her ward.
Deputy Prime Minister Teo Chee Hean said the ruling People's Action Party had expected the fight to be difficult given the circumstances under which the election was called, but nevertheless added that the party will continue to pursue the interests of Singaporeans over the long term.
Sylvia Lim, chairman of the Workers' Party, said that her party remained small and there is still room for improvement.