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Last Updated: Saturday, 6 May 2006, 13:28 GMT 14:28 UK
Polls close in Singapore election
Singapore man votes at polling station
Voters had more candidates to choose from in this election
Voting has taken place in the general election in Singapore.

The poll is the first electoral test for Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong since his appointment in August 2004.

More than one million people were eligible to take part in polls, which closed at 2000 (1200 GMT). First results are expected within hours.

For first time in almost 20 years, the opposition was contesting more than half of the constituencies in the tightly-controlled city-state.

Final campaign rallies were held on Friday, with the governing People's Action Party (PAP) stressing what it calls its strong record on economic growth.

However, opposition groups have insisted the gap between rich and poor in Singapore is increasing.

The opposition has only two seats in the 84-member parliament.

It has little access to state-controlled media and its leaders are frequently sued for libel and bankrupted.

'Heavy-handed'

Taxi-driver Lee Kwok Seng, 44, said he was voting for the ruling party. "The government has given me safety and I don't want crime in Singapore," he was quoted by Reuters news agency as saying.

But the opposition has been attracting growing support.

Singapore's People's Action Party supporters at a rally

WM Ng, 36, said PAP no longer represented his way of seeing things and he disagreed "with their heavy-handed style of government".

In the last vote, in 2001, only a third of voters were offered a choice of candidate, with the opposition fielding hopefuls for 29 seats.

This time the main opposition parties - the Workers' Party (WP), the Singapore Democratic Alliance (SDA) and the Singapore Democratic Party (SDP) - are together contesting 47 seats.

Mr Lee apologised on Friday for saying earlier in the week that he would be distracted by a stronger opposition.

"Instead of spending my time thinking of what is the right policy for Singapore, I have to spend all my time thinking what is the right way to fix them, what's the right way to buy my own supporters over," he said.

The BBC's Andrew Harding in Singapore says slowly, though, things are changing.

The internet has broken the government's stranglehold on the media, and a younger generation is starting to question the restrictions of Singapore's nanny state, our correspondent says.

That is not likely to translate into an election upset, he says, but any gains by the opposition could be interpreted as the start of a trend.


SEE ALSO:
Singapore rulers face poll fight
27 Apr 06 |  Asia-Pacific
Singapore sets May election date
20 Apr 06 |  Asia-Pacific
Singapore economy performing well
03 Jan 06 |  Business
Singapore swears in a new leader
12 Aug 04 |  Asia-Pacific
Profile: Lee Hsien Loong
11 Aug 04 |  Asia-Pacific
Country profile: Singapore
07 Apr 06 |  Country profiles


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