SINGAPORE (AFP) – A Singapore opposition leader on Friday urged the US ambassador-designate to push for reforms that would lead to a “genuine multi-party democracy” in the affluent city-state.

Reform Party chief Kenneth Jeyaretnam welcomed a vow by David Adelman, President Barack Obama’s pick as Singapore envoy, to encourage the government to allow greater openness.

“The Reform Party welcomes the ambassador’s statement that he will use public diplomacy to work towards a genuine multi-party democracy in Singapore,” Jeyaretnam said in a statement.

“As measured by several independent and objective indices such as the Economist Democracy Index as well as the Freedom House report, Singapore does not qualify as a democracy in the generally accepted sense of the term.”

Singapore has been ruled by the People’s Action Party (PAP) since 1959.

The party has earned praise for transforming the island from a sleepy trading port into one of Asia’s wealthiest countries, but it also stands accused of curbing civil rights and political freedoms.

Jeyaretnam is an economist who took over the Reform Party helm from his late father, veteran politician J.B. Jeyaretnam, a dogged PAP opponent who endured bankruptcy and jail terms before he died in 2008.

Adelman, a state senator in Georgia and Obama campaign fund-raiser, said at his Senate confirmation hearing on Tuesday that Singapore was a “constructive force in the world”, pointing to its aid efforts in Haiti and Afghanistan.

But Adelman said he would also promote democratic reforms in Singapore, one of Washington’s closest political, economic and military allies in Asia.

“Make no mistake, currently Singapore is not a multi-party democracy,” Adelman said.