Emeritus Senior Minister Goh Chok Tong singled out the trust between the Singaporean public and the Government as the key factor in ensuring that the PAP remained in power beyond the past half-century, after it saw its share of the popular majority in last month's national polls soar to nearly 70 per cent.
He said yesterday that trust was hard-earned through a proven track record, which had to be re-established with every new generation - a sentiment echoed by other former leaders at a panel on inclusive and consultative governance in Kuala Lumpur.
"The last election was amazing in the sense that nobody expected the results that we had. Not even the Prime Minister nor myself," he said at the inaugural Global Transformation Forum, referring to Mr Lee Hsien Loong.
Mr Goh said the People's Action Party was worried about "losing a few more seats", but a "confluence of factors led to a flight to safety" because the opposition - whose rallies drew tens of thousands, far exceeding those by the ruling party - had "come on too strongly".
Amid challenges both external and domestic - including an ageing population, the need for imported labour and the attendant stresses on society - "there you were, having the opposition parties trying to knock out the Government", the former prime minister said.
"So, the people said, no, let's stick with people we know, we trust this party," Mr Goh said, in explaining the rise in vote share from 60.1 per cent in 2011 to 69.9 per cent.
He explained that the trust built allowed the Government to take the right long-term measures, "which are painful for the population" in the short term "and get them accepted by the people".
"We have a radar working all the time, and the Government must be aware of challenges facing the country," he said.
The former prime minister of New Zealand, Ms Helen Clark, noted that the public was often most incensed when leaders "promise what (they) can't deliver".
"People feel that is an absolute breach.
"Secondly, never do things you promise not to do. You have to earn trust; it is very easily broken," said Ms Clark, who now heads the United Nations Development Programme.
Former Australian prime minister Kevin Rudd also agreed that "trust is a very fragile thing", and when politicians begin to "engage in grand rhetorical statements and then nothing happens", the faith in them begins to evaporate.
The forum, which continues today, sees the likes of illustrious sportsmen such as American athlete Carl Lewis, film star and former Californian governor Arnold Schwarzenegger and former Bolivian president Jorge Quiroga sharing best practices in socio-economic transformation.
It was opened by Malaysian Prime Minister Najib Razak, who said that a number of investigations - both in Malaysia and abroad - were continuing into debt-laden state investor 1Malaysia Development Berhad, a target of allegations of misappropriated billions that have plagued his administration.
"Rather than conduct a trial by media, we must wait for the outcome of these investigations," said Datuk Seri Najib.