PM Lee still mulling over by-election

Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong continued to keep his cards close to his chest on whether there will be a by-election in Punggol East.

Speaking to Singapore reporters in New Delhi, he acknowledged that there were expectations for one to be held in the seat, but said he had not decided whether to hold one and if so, when it would take place.

He noted that whenever a vacancy came up and there was "no special reason" not to have a by-election, there would be expectations for one. We will consider this, he said.

The Punggol East seat was vacated last week after People's Action Party MP Michael Palmer, who was also Speaker of Parliament, resigned over an extramarital affair.

In the wake of his exit, Mr Lee had issued a statement saying he would "carefully consider whether to call a by-election in Punggol East and, if so, when."

He added then that there were several items on the national agenda, including the Singapore Conversation, the White Paper on Population and the 2013 budget - fuelling speculation that the earliest a by-election could be held would be in the second quarter of next year.

A brief history of by-elections:

By-elections have been held in 31 constituencies since self-governance in 1959. Of these, the PAP lost three times: Hong Lim in 1961 and Anson in 1961 and 1981.

1960s

From 1959 to Independence in 1965, by-elections were nail-biting fights which saw the People's Action Party (PAP) tussle with other parties to hang on to its dominance in Parliament.

In April 1961, former national development minister Ong Eng Guan ran as an independent in Hong Lim after being expelled from the PAP. He won handsomely against the PAP's Jek Yeun Thong. Three months later, the Workers' Party's (WP) David Marshall won Anson in a by-election following the death of a PAP assemblyman.

The Michael Palmer Affair
Click on thumbnail to view (Photos: SPH, Internet)

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