Singapore's long-time ruling party has won an overwhelming parliamentary majority in elections, but the opposition made historic gains after mounting its biggest challenge since independence in 1965, according to returns.
The ruling People's Action Party (PAP) won 81 of the 87 parliament seats as it captured 60% of the two million votes cast in Saturday's election, the Elections Department said. The Workers Party won six seats, the most by the opposition.
While the results would be considered a major victory for most of the world's political parties, it represents a setback for Singapore's political establishment, which has enjoyed unrivalled power for five decades.
The PAP, which controlled 82 of 84 seats in the previous parliament, remains Singapore's dominant political force, but the Workers Party showed unprecedented strength for an opposition party and is positioned to provide an alternative voice in the new parliament.
The PAP has earned respect, especially from older voters, for helping to boost gross domestic product per capita to 43,867 US dollars last year from 428 dollars in 1960.
However, the PAP's share of the overall vote has dropped from 75% in 2001 as stagnant wages and higher living costs have fuelled a widening income gap and resentment among poorer Singaporeans.
"This election marks a distinct shift in our political landscape which all of us must adjust to," prime minister Lee Hsien Loong said in a televised news conference. "While the voters have given the PAP a strong mandate, many voters, including some of those who voted for us, clearly expressed their significant concerns both on the issues and our approach to government.
"Many Singaporeans wish for the government to adopt a different style and approach. We hear your voice. The PAP will learn from this election and put right what is wrong."
Leaders from the PAP spent the last days of the nine-day official campaign apologising for policy mistakes and perceived arrogance. Opposition parties tapped growing voter discontent over soaring housing costs and a surge of foreign workers.
"This is a political landmark in modern Singapore," Workers Party general secretary Low Thia Khiang said in a speech to cheering supporters. "Your courage has made a real breakthrough for future generations. You've taken a real leap of faith."