Singapore parliament speaker resigns after affair

The speaker of Singapore's parliament resigned after admitting to an extramarital affair, adding to a list of scandals that have undermined the city-state's reputation for clean and efficient governance.

Michael Palmer, the speaker and a member of Singapore's ruling People's Action Party, said his conduct was "improper" and a "serious error of judgment," according to reports by the strait-laced island's state media.

The woman Palmer had an affair with was employed by a government statutory board and worked in Palmer's constituency. Palmer said he resigned Wednesday to avoid further embarrassment to the parliament and the ruling party, which has been in power since 1959.

Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong said in a statement that all members of parliament need to uphold the highest standards of personal conduct.

The scandal could result in an election to fill the vacant seat in parliament for Punggol East constituency that Palmer represented, but Lee indicated that he won't be calling a by-election any time soon.

In a statement on his Facebook page, Lee noted that the Constitution does not require him to call a by-election within a fixed timeframe. "I will carefully consider whether to call a by-election in Punggol East and, if so, when. I assure Singaporeans that I will make my decision based on what is best for the constituents of Punggol East and the country," he wrote.

A by-election would have been another opportunity for voters to express discontent with the ruling party which has suffered a drop in popularity because of an influx of foreign workers and widening inequality. Palmer won Punggol East with 54.5 percent of the vote in general elections last year.

The government has been embarrassed by a succession of scandals and mishaps that might hardly raise eyebrows in many neighboring Southeast Asian countries but have caused outrage in Singapore where the ruling party has cultivated a pristine image.

Last month, immigrant Chinese bus drivers staged Singapore's first strike in 26 years in protest at poor working conditions and low pay. Earlier in the year, the chiefs of Singapore's civil defense force and anti-narcotics unit were sacked and charged with corruption for awarding business contracts in exchange for sexual favors from female company executives.

The government's competence was also questioned after subway breakdowns and flash floods that inundated an upmarket shopping district.

"The PAP has taken pride in its whiter-than-white image, with very few scandals coming up the surface over the past decades. But it seems that the worms are coming out of the can," said political observer and former newspaper editor PN Balji.