Singapore (AFP) - Singapore's ruling party looked set for a landslide victory in Friday's snap general election, reversing setbacks suffered in 2011, an official sampling of ballots showed.
Initial results released by the Elections Department showed the People's Action Party (PAP), which has been in power for 56 years, thumping the opposition in most districts with wide margins.
The PAP only needs 45 seats to form the next government. It held 80 seats in the previous parliament.
As the early results were being released, jubilant supporters chanted "PAP, PAP" at a stadium where Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong was expected to appear later.
The mood was somber at a rival gathering of the main opposition Workers' Party (WP).
There was no doubt the PAP would win, but the victory margins it established in the early count showed a marked improvement over results in 2011, when its share of votes cast plunged to an all-time low of 60 percent.
A six-member ticket led by Lee in central Singapore was winning 78 per cent of the vote, up sharply from 69 per cent in 2011, according to the early count.
Most MPs are elected as part of geographic clusters.
David Black, managing director of local research firm Blackbox, told AFP: "Our polling all year showed likelihood of PAP bouncing back. The only surprise was the extent of it."
The PAP led Singapore, a former British colonial outpost, to industrialised status in just one generation but was criticised for jailing dissidents and using defamation suits to cripple the opposition.
The early results were tabulated from 100 ballots taken at random from each of the polling stations, with a margin of error of plus or minus 4.0 percentage points.
The PAP appeared to be set for a massive win in the four-seat East Coast district, with a 61-39 result against the WP in the early count.
The WP was banking on victory in the district to expand its stronghold in the nearby district of Aljunied, which it had wrested from the PAP in the 2011 elections.
In the five-member Aljunied ward, the WP was ahead by a slim 52 percent of the vote.
The WP was leading 58-42 in a single-seat stronghold while the results for the seventh seat it held in the previous parliament were still too close to call at 51-49 for the PAP.
In another closely watched four-seat district, dissident Chee Soon Juan's Singapore Democratic Party was behind the PAP 34-66.
Chee, who has endured jail terms and financially ruinous libel suits filed by PAP leaders, had attracted huge crowds in his rallies.
Prime Minister Lee had staked the PAP's fate on its performance record since winning its first election in 1959, when colonial ruler Britain granted self rule.
After a stormy union with Malaysia, Singapore became a republic in 1965.
"In this election, we are showing a report card. We are proud of it, I hope you are proud of it too. We are asking you for a mandate. Work with us, help us to make things better for Singapore," he said in his final election rally speech on Wednesday.
But the WP urged voters to support the building of a robust legislative opposition to rein in the PAP and force it to reform its policies on immigration, health care and social safety nets for the poor and elderly.
"We cannot allow Singapore to fall into a situation where our survival depends only on the PAP, or just on any one party," WP chief Low Thia Khiang, a charismatic former schoolteacher, said in a campaign speech.