In 2009, further changes were made to the political system. Non-Constituency Member of Parliament seats were increased to nine, up from between three and six, and the appointment of Nominated MPs would be mandatory instead of being decided by Parliament. With that, the new Parliament would have the largest number of non-PAP voices since 1963 and more than one NCMP for the first time.
The Electoral Boundaries Review Committee report, released on 24 February 2011 after having been placed with the Prime Minister's Office three days earlier, upped the number of SMCs from nine to 12 for the first time in three GEs. The average size of GRCs would be reduced five members, paving way for the return of four-member GRCs that was last seen in the 1997 GE. Also, a one-day cooling-off period before polling day was introduced, extending the difference between the nomination and polling days to at least ten days, up from the minimum nine.
For the second time, PM Lee Hsien Loong was leading PAP into a GE and the most hotly contested one since 1963. The ruling party, with its campaign theme "Securing Our Future Together", was fraught with several challenges such as rising costs, a widening income gap, inadequate housing supply, a large influx of foreigners, financial losses incurred by national corporations and several prominent security lapses. The decision to field Tin Pei Ling, an inexperienced candidate who had committed a few gaffes, also created some controversy.
Two seats, one within Jurong GRC and the other within Ang Mo Kio GRC, had fallen vacant after the death of PAP MPs Dr Ong Chit Chung in 2008 and Dr S. Balaji in 2010 respectively. However, the PAP government was not obligated by the law to hold by-elections and did not do so despite calls by several opposition parties, NMPs and activists.
Compared to the previous GE, the opposition camp was more fragmented this time. Additional entrants to the fray were NSP and SPP, both which had left the SDA alliance and reverted to their own banners for the first time since 1997, as well as the newly formed RP.
Despite so, its position had strengthened and fielded several high-profile recruits including renowned international lawyer Chen Show Mao who was standing under WP ticket and Senior Minister Goh Chok Tong's former principal private secretary Tan Jee Say who was with SDP. Collectively, the opposition contested nearly seat except for a failed bid in Tanjong Pagar GRC helmed by Minister Mentor Lee Kuan Yew, which could have been the first independent GRC team comprising mostly renegade PKMS and SF members.
Opposition veteran J. B. Jeyaretnam passed away shortly after establishing RP in 2008, leaving it rudderless until his elder son, Kenneth Jeyaretnam took over. He ousted his late father's long-time loyalists, some whom formed SF. RP grew to become possibly the largest opposition party but a spate of resignations before the GE reduced its numbers once again.
Among those who left RP, several joined NSP. One of them, Nicole Seah, attracted attention with her passionate speeches and by contesting SM Goh's ward, was compared to Tin. She was also the youngest candidate in the GE. Ang Mo Kio GRC nearly became a no-contest until RP borrowed candidates from SPP.
The biggest unprecedented moves were made by the two incumbent opposition MPs, who stepped out of their "safe" seats to contest GRCs. WP secretary-general Low Thia Khiang joined hands with chairman and NCMP Sylvia Lim to contest Aljunied GRC. Replacing him in Hougang was Yaw Shin Leong. Potong Pasir MP Chiam See Tong handed his ward of 28 years to his wife, Lina Loh, to lead a SPP team in Bishan-Toa Payoh GRC.
However, the destinies of WP and SPP went down contrasting paths. WP broke through a GRC for the first time in opposition history while successfully defending its incumbent seat but SPP did not. During the campaign, the cannons of PAP were aimed at Chen, who had been away from Singapore for many years. As polling drew closer, PAP fired directly at the credible Low, causing some ground dissatisfaction.
With the campaign slogan "Towards a First World Parliament", WP captured six seats, which was the largest number won by an opposition party and the combined opposition camp since independence, surpassing the four won by the opposition in 1991. Along with two NCMP seats, WP bagged eight seats. SPP's Loh took up the remaining NCMP seat.
Traditionally regarded as a PAP "fortress", the fall of a GRC saw two PAP ministers voted out. They were the well-liked George Yeo and only woman minister Lim Hwee Hua, in deja vu of 1991 where first woman minister Dr Seet Ai Mee lost her seat. Since independence, this was PAP's lowest share of the votes and the first time opposition candidates were elected in their maiden battle.
Immediately after the GE, MM Lee and SM Goh, both whom were former prime ministers, announced their retirement from the new Cabinet, marking the end of an era. Goh was conferred the title of "Emeritus Senior Minister".
|11th Parliament dissolved:
19 April 2011, Tuesday
27 April 2011, Wednesday
6 May 2011, Friday
7 May 2011, Saturday
11 May 2011, Wednesday
|12th Parliament opening:
10 October 2011, Monday
2,350,873 [OV: 3,675]
139,771 [OV: 222] (5.9%)
2,211,102 [OV: 3,453] (94.1%)
2,060,373 [OV: 2,683] (93.2%)