Polls close in Singapore presidential vote

SINGAPORE, Aug 27, 2011 (AFP) - Polls closed Saturday in Singapore's first contested presidential election in 18 years, following a heated campaign marked by calls for stronger checks on the ruling party.

Three months after a parliamentary election eroded the dominance of the People's Action Party (PAP), anti-government sentiment is still running high in online forums that now shape political debate in Singapore.

Voting started at 8:00 am (0000 GMT) and closed at 8:00 pm. The winner is expected to be known hours after voting centres close.

Four candidates are running, with about 2.3 million Singaporeans expected to have cast their votes after a nine-day campaign period.

Local broadcaster Channel NewsAsia said on its website that 83 percent of the eligible voters had cast their ballots by 5:00 pm.

The job is non-partisan and the publication of pre-election survey results is banned in Singapore, but former deputy prime minister Tony Tan, 71, who quit the PAP in June, is seen as the man to beat.

The three other candidates are former legislator and ex-PAP member Tan Cheng Bock, former insurance cooperative chief executive Tan Kin Lian and former corporate executive Tan Jee Say, who also worked in the civil service.

Although it is a largely ceremonial post, interest in the presidency intensified after the PAP lost six parliamentary seats in May and saw its share of votes drop to an all-time low of 60 percent, from nearly 67 percent in the previous election.

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