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Singapore PM Lee returns to power with clear mandate'

Singapore: Singapore Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong's People's Action Party has retained power with a "clear mandate" in the general election held amidst the COVID-19 pandemic, but the opposition staged its best performance ever by securing a record 10 seats in Parliament.

The People's Action Party (PAP), in power since 1965, won 83 of 93 parliamentary seats or 61.2 per cent of the vote - down from nearly 70 per cent it had in the 2015 general election. In 2015, the PAP secured 83 seats out of 89 seats in 29 constituencies.

The surprise this time was that the opposition Workers' Party secured 10 seats - its best result.

Friday's election was widely seen as a referendum on the Prime Minister Lee's handling of the coronavirus outbreak. Singapore is currently facing the city state's worst recession with economy projected to shrink between 7 and 4 per cent.

Singapore is only a handful of countries to have held an election during the pandemic.

This was not a feel-good election, said Lee. But he noted that the ruling PAP received a "clear mandate" from the people.

We have a clear mandate, but the percentage of the popular vote is not as high as I had hoped for, 68-year old Lee told a PAP's post-results press conference on Saturday morning.

Nevertheless, the results reflect broad-based support for the PAP, Lee said at a press conference marking the end of the election. Singaporeans understand what is at stake and why we must come together to uphold our national interests.

I will use this mandate responsibly to deal with COVID-19 and the economic downturn to take us through the crisis safely and beyond," he added. Prime Minister Lee congratulated the Workers' Party for what he called a "strong performance."

The opposition Workers' Party secured 10 seats and defeated a team in the Group Representation Constituency of Sengkang led by former Minister in the Prime Minister's Office Ng Chee Meng who is also the Secretary-General of the power National Trades Union Congress (NTUC).

"I congratulate the Workers' Party for their strong performance," Lee, who leads the PAP as secretary-general, wrote in a Facebook post. "I look forward to them participating in and contributing to the debate in Parliament, and to the national debate, as we deal with the urgent issues before us."

Lee assured it is only right that Workers' Party's Indian-origin secretary-general 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 .

Prime Minister Narendra Modi on Saturday congratulated his Singaporean counterpart for winning the general elections.

"Congratulations to Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong for success in the General Elections. Best wishes to the people of Singapore for a peaceful and prosperous future," Modi wrote on Twitter.

The son of country's founding father and long-time ruler Lee Kuan Yew, Lee has been in office since 2004.

For the second time in Singapore's history, all seats were contested, with two constituencies seeing three-cornered fights. Altogether, there were 10 opposition parties and one independent candidate who vied for a spot in Parliament.

A total of 2,535,565 votes, including rejected votes, were cast in what was the country's 13th election since independence. This made up 95.63 per cent of the 2,651,435 registered electors, the largest turnout since 1997.

Prime Minister Lee 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.

Lee acknowledged that the result also showed a clear desire for a diversity of voices in Parliament.

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