The Leaderboard: Lee Li Lian

Who is she?

Lee Li Lian is the member of parliament (MP)-elect from the Workers’ Party (WP) representing Punggol East, a single-member constituency in Singapore. She won the seat in a by-election on January 26 following the resignation of Michael Palmer from the People’s Action Party (PAP)  due to an extramarital affair.

Lee is currently the WP’s deputy webmaster. She joined the WP in June 2006 after volunteering as a polling and counting agent in the 2006 general elections. Ms. Lee was elected into the WP’s Youth Wing as an Executive Council member in the same year. She studied at the Ngee Ann Polytechnic and pursued her Bachelor’s degree in Sales and Marketing at the Curtin University of Technology in Australia.

Workers’ Party candidate Lee Li Lian won unexpectedly in the Punggol East by-election. Source: Steel Wool's flickr photostream, used under a creative commons license.

Why is she in the news?

Lee’s decisive victory in the Punggol East by-election was unexpected, even by the WP. She won 54.5 percent of valid votes, beating Koh Poh Koon from the PAP (43.7 percent), Kenneth Jeyaretnam from the Reform Party (1.2 percent) and Desmond Lim from the Singapore Democratic Alliance (0.6 percent).

Although Lee was a strong contender – she ran in the 2011 general election – observers predicted the long-governing PAP would win easily, as a multi-cornered fight would split opposition votes.

What can we expect from her?

Lee’s victory sends a signal to the PAP that Singaporeans still want the government to work harder at addressing their grievances such as the growing number of foreign workers, despite Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong’s attempt to realign the ruling party with citizen demands.

This is the second by-election the PAP has lost in eight months, after failing to gain seat in the Hougang by-election on May 26, 2012. The party’s performance in the 2011 general election was the worst since Singapore’s independence.

Lee said that she hopes her victory will encourage more women and young people to be involved in politics, as they continue to be underrepresented in Singapore’s parliament. She promised to voice the concerns of young Singaporean families, especially regarding high housing prices and a competitive education environment. She also promised to ensure a smooth handover of the Town Council from the PAP to the WP.

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