SINGAPORE - The People's Action Party (PAP) has received a clear mandate in the general election, but the results also show a desire for a diversity of voices in Parliament, said Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong.
PM Lee said that while the ruling party's share of the popular vote - 61.24 per cent - was not as high as he had hoped for, it still reflected a broad base of support for the PAP.
"Singaporeans understand what is at stake and why we must come together to uphold our national interests," he said at a virtual press conference held at The Treasury building at around 4.30am on Saturday (July 11).
He added that he was "honoured and humbled" by the faith Singaporeans have put in the PAP, which he leads as its secretary-general.
"I will use this mandate responsibly to deal with Covid-19 and the economic downturn and to take us safely through the crisis and beyond," he said.
The PAP's vote share in this crisis election fell by 8.62 percentage points from 2015, but remained higher than the 60.1 per cent that it garnered in 2011.
The results, PM Lee said, are indicative of the pain and uncertainty that Singaporeans feel in the Covid-19 crisis - the loss of income, anxiety about jobs and the disruption caused by the circuit breaker and safe distancing restrictions.
"This was not a feel-good election, but one where people are facing real problems and expect more rough weather to come," he said.
In a Facebook post on Saturday, PM Lee said that overall , he was satisfied with the outcome of this election. "There were also real concerns raised during the campaign that we must address," he added.
While Singaporeans want the PAP to form the Government, he acknowledged that the electorate - especially younger voters - also want to see a larger opposition presence in Parliament.
The PAP won 83 out of 93 seats, losing a second group representation constituency - the newly created four-member Sengkang GRC - to the Workers' Party, which will have a record 10 elected MPs in the 14th Parliament.
He said he had called to congratulate Workers' Party (WP) chief Pritam Singh, whose team also extended their share of votes in Aljunied GRC and Hougang SMC.
PM Lee also told Mr Singh that with 10 opposition MPs in the next Parliament, the PAP intends to recognise him as the leader of the opposition, and that he will be provided with the appropriate staff and resources. "We will look forward to working together with him," he said.
He expressed disappointment that the PAP lost in Sengkang, adding that the team led by labour chief Ng Chee Meng "always knew it was going to be a tough fight".
"They gave it their all but Sengkang voters have spoken and we respect their decision," he said.
He also described the defeat as a significant loss to the 4G team. The PAP slate which was defeated there included three office holders: Mr Ng, who is Minister in the Prime Minister's Office and NTUC's secretary-general; Dr Lam Pin Min, a senior minister of state; and Mr Amrin Amin, a parliamentary secretary.
"I have spoken to Chee Meng and the GRC team, to encourage them to serve the party and Singapore in different ways," he said, adding that the PAP will strive to win back Sengkang, Aljunied and Hougang.
Deputy Prime Minister Heng Swee Keat, who sat alongside PM Lee during the conference and is prime minister-designate, also stressed the need for the opposition to work with the PAP, when asked what he would say to the business community after the results.
"First, the work of restructuring the economy and transforming our industry must continue. The work of protecting jobs, saving jobs and creating new jobs must continue. I think it's important for us to continue to emphasis the fundamentals we have and be able to enhance investors' confidence," he said.
He added: "I had a short chat with (WP's) Nicole Seah and Terence (Tan) earlier on, and they said that we must work together… so I look forward to the WP playing a constructive role and putting national interest before party interests."
Flanked by PAP first and second assistant secretaries-general Heng Swee Keat and Chan Chun Sing, party vice-chairman Masagos Zulkifli, treasurer K. Shanmugam and organising secretary Grace Fu at the press conference, PM Lee pledged to serve all Singaporeans.
"Whether or not you voted for the PAP, we will listen to you, do our best to address your concerns and try to win your support," he said.
He added that he took the results as an endorsement of the PAP's policies and plans. "We will take this forward and work with Singapore to realise those plans and solve the problems which we have."
Whether the election outcome is seen as a strengthening of Singapore will depend not only on the PAP, but also on the opposition, PM Lee said.
Asked if the PAP had lost the youth vote, he said young people have "very significantly different life aspirations and priorities" compared to older generations, and this will have to be reflected in the political process and in government policies.
He also asked younger Singaporeans to look, with an open mind, "at what the previous generations have done to examine what is relevant... and to learn from these experiences hard won by their parents and grandparents, so that they don't have to learn them all over again and pay a high price, which has already been paid".
"The generations have to work together in order to achieve that and not have a disconnect. And find ourselves with no historical background."
On the long queues seen at some polling stations, which required the Returning Officer to extend polling hours from 8pm to 10pm so all Singaporeans could cast their vote, PM Lee said the voting arrangements could have been done better, and that a thorough review will be done to improve the process
With the election over, the Prime Minister called on Singaporeans to put aside their differences and close ranks to support the Government in steering the country through the Covid-19 crisis safely.
He said he was determined to hand over Singapore to the fourth generation leadership team "intact and in good working order".
"My Government will work with all of you to overcome the present health and economic crisis and emerge stronger. With this election now behind us, let us work as one Singapore to secure our lives, our jobs and our future," he said.