Singapore dissolves parliament ahead of snap election | News | DW | 25.08.2015
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Singapore dissolves parliament ahead of snap election

Singapore has dissolved its parliament as PM Lee Hsien Loong seeks a fresh mandate over voter concerns on immigration. It will be Singapore's first election without the prime minister's influential father Lee Kuan Yew.

President Tony Tan dissolved Singapore's parliament Tuesday at the request of Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong (pictured above), with the vote to take place on September 11 - more than a year before a deadline for the next polls.

Lee's request to dissolve parliament follows voter concerns over immigration and the high cost of living in a slowing economy.

By law, a general election must be held in Singapore within three months of parliament's dissolution by the country's president.

The date for nomination day, when candidates file their papers, will be announced separately.

The ruling People's Action Party (PAP), which has been in power for more than 50 years with a mix of strict political controls and rapid economic progress, is expected to keep its large majority in the 89-seat parliament because of a fragmented opposition.

But the party will be under pressure to improve on its worst ever electoral performance in 2011 when it won 60 percent of the votes, although it retained 80 seats thanks to its block-voting system.

Influx of foreign workers creating tensions

The government enjoyed a "satisfaction index" of 76.4 percent in July after peaking at 80 percent in April following founding father Lee Kuan Yew's death, which triggered an outpouring of national grief and patriotism, according to a survey by local research firm Blackbox.

But its satisfaction rating on the cost of living in July stood at just 42 percent and population management at 61 percent.

An increase in the number of foreign workers and immigrants as the birth rate declines has seen the population rise from 4.17 million in 2004 to 5.47 million last year.

The influx remains a source of tension, with middle-class Singaporeans complaining that the newcomers are competing with them for jobs and housing and straining public services including transport.

Election to set 'direction for Singapore'

On Sunday, Lee, who had until January 2017 to hold an election, sought support in a televised address, telling viewers: "This election will be critical. You will be deciding who's governing Singapore for the next five years, but much more than that... you will be setting the direction for Singapore for the next 50 years, you will be determining the future for Singapore.”

Singapore celebrated 50 years of independence on August 9 with a large parade, which highlighted its rapid economic development and stability under PAP rule.

The city state became a republic on August 9, 1965, after being ejected from the Malaysian federation.

The Lee Kuan Yew, who died in March, created the PAP that has ruled the country since independence and is known to have contributed hugely to turning Singapore into one of the world's richest countries.

But the party has also been criticized for curtailing free speech and detaining political opponents, and is ranked 153 out of 180 countries on Reporters without Borders' 2015 World Press Freedom Index.

mh/shs (AFP, Reuters)

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