On a warm Saturday, 7 May 2011, Singaporeans went to the polls to elect new Members of Parliament. The result of this five-year democratic cycle was that the incumbent, the People's Action Party (PAP), was returned to power with 60.1% of the vote, while also increasing the number of opposition members in the highest legislative body in the nation.
Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong had said many times that this was a watershed election because Singaporeans were choosing their leaders of tomorrow. (Aside: isn't any election supposed to be about that anyway?) When he had uttered those words, he had implied that this was a chance for the electorate to give the PAP the mandate needed to continue governing for another five years.
However, this turned out to be a watershed election for other reasons, many of which turned out to be firsts for Singapore.
- Almost all of the 87 seats in Parliament were contested, the first time that there was such widespread electoral competition since independence in 1965.
- A larger number of younger, first-time voters. Dubbed the post-1975 generation, they made up about one-third of the electorate.
- Perhaps reflecting the younger demographic, there were more candidates who were below 30 years old, compared to past elections.
- Use of the Internet, in particular, social media saw the increase and ease of communication among voters, which had immediate impact on the ongoing campaigns by the political parties.
- An opposition party, the Workers' Party (WP), had successfully won a group representation constituency (GRC), a scheme that had been introduced in 1988.
- The loss of a key Cabinet minister, George Yeo.
- The defeat of Singapore's longest serving opposition Member of Parliament, Chiam See Tong.