Singapore will hold a general election in September, more than a year before a deadline for polls to be held expires.
The vote has been set for 11 September, the office of the prime minister, Lee Hsien Loong, said Tuesday.
Analysts have said the People’s Action party (PAP) – founded by the prime minister’s father, the late Lee Kuan Yew, and in power since 1965 – will be keen to tap national pride from the celebrations on 9 August to mark the affluent city-state’s 50th birthday.
In 2011, the PAP won its lowest ever share of the vote, with many people unhappy about immigration and the cost of living. Those issues will again be at the forefront of debate when candidates head to campaign rallies across the city-state.
The next general election would have had to be held by January 2017, but there had been speculation in the media and political blogs that it would be called early.
“Soon I will be calling elections to ask for your mandate, to take Singapore into this next phase of our nation-building,” Lee said in his annual speech as part of the National Day celebrations.
The legacy of Lee Kuan Yew, Singapore’s first prime minister, who died on 23 March, will be fresh in the minds of voters and the PAP will be keen to convince people it is best placed to ensure Singapore’s success in the future.
The elder Lee oversaw the city-state’s rapid rise from a British colonial backwater to a global trade and financial centre and his death triggered a flood of tributes.
In his lifetime, Lee Kuan Yew drew praise for his market-friendly policies but also criticism at home and abroad for his strict controls over the press, public protest and political opponents.
Under Lee Kuan Yew, political opposition and independent media were not allowed to flourish in the same way as the economy – a state of affairs that persists to this day.
Singapore is 153rd out of 180 countries in the latest World Press Freedom Index.