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NEWS UPDATES Asean Affairs        7  May 2011

Singapore votes

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Singapore's ruling party faced its toughest challenge since independence in 1965 as voters in the Southeast Asian city-state went to the polls today for parliamentary elections.

Leaders from the ruling People's Action Party spent the last days of the nine-day official campaign apologizing for policy mistakes and perceived arrogance amid growing voter discontent over soaring housing costs and a surge of foreign workers.

"There are immediate problems on everyone's minds, like the cost of living and housing," Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong said in a televised speech late Friday. "The PAP is dealing with them."

Voting is due to end at 8 p.m. and initial results are expected to be announced a few hours later.

The PAP was expected to win a dominant majority of 87 seats and around 60 percent of the overall vote — results that would be considered great for most of the world's parties but a potential blow for Singapore's political establishment, which has enjoyed unrivaled power for five decades.

Opposition parties, bolstered by a crop of well-educated first-time candidates, have attracted up to 40,000 people at rallies during the last week, the biggest such crowds analysts can remember.

"In any government, there should be a strong alternative voice," said Chia Teck Shin, a 37-year-old public relations executive who volunteered during the campaign for the Singapore Democratic Party. "It can't be that the ruling party is the only deciding factor."

The opposition has never had more than four members of parliament and had just two in the last congress, but six parties are contesting the PAP in a record 82 seats — almost twice as many as the previous election in 2006. In some past elections, the opposition has failed to contest a majority of seats, ceding victory to the PAP even before the vote.

A survey by Australia's UMR Research showed the PAP was likely to win 61 percent of the votes, down from 67 percent in 2006. UMR polled 522 Singaporeans from May 3 to 5, and the online survey had a margin of error of 3.6 percent. UMR did not poll individual district races or estimate how many seats each party would win.

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This year in Thailand-what next?

AseanAffairs   04 January 2011
By David Swartzentruber      

It is commonplace in journalism to write two types of articles at the transition point between the year that has passed and the New Year. As this writer qualifies as an “old hand” in observing Thailand with a track record dating back 14 years, it is time take a shot at what may unfold in Thailand in 2011.

The first issue that can’t be answered is the health of Thailand’s beloved King Bhumibol, who is now 83 years old. He is the world's longest reigning monarch, but elaborate birthday celebrations in December failed to mask concern over his health. More


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