SINGAPORE – Singaporeans gave the People’s Action Party (PAP) its biggest endorsement since 2001, with the ruling party winning nearly 70 per cent of the popular vote, recapturing the single-seat of Punggol East and making inroads in almost all constituencies – including the Workers’ Party-held ward of Aljunied Group Representation Constituency (GRC) where the contest came down to the wire.
With all 89 seats being contested for the first time since Independence, the PAP captured 83 seats. This included 12 out of the 13 Single Member Constituencies (SMCs), traditionally considered easier targets for the Opposition.
The ruling party received more than 70 per cent of the vote share in 15 out of the 29 electoral divisions – with Jurong GRC (79.28 per cent), Ang Mo Kio GRC (78.63 per cent) and West Coast GRC (78.57 per cent) the top three performers.
The WP retained Aljunied GRC with a narrow 50.95 per cent of the votes. It also successfully defended Hougang SMC with 57.69 per cent of the votes, a dip from its 2012 by-election result of 62.1 per cent.
Overall, the PAP’s 69.86 per cent share of the popular vote was the highest since 2001’s landslide victory of 75.3 per cent – a year when only a third of eligible voters actually voted due to walkovers, as compared to this General Election where all 89 seats were contested.
This is also a 9.72 percentage-point upswing from its 60.14 per cent share of the overall votes in 2011.
In East Coast, the GRC where the PAP had its narrowest win in 2011 with 54.8 per cent, the ruling party extended its vote-share to 60.73 per cent against the WP’s ‘B’ team.
Single-seat wards that were carved out of GRCs for this election also saw convincing wins for the PAP. In Bukit Batok for instance, Mr David Ong took 72.99 per cent of the votes in a three-cornered fight. In Fengshan, Ms Cheryl Chan – the first new face the PAP has ever fielded in a new SMC – received 57.52 per cent of the votes.
MacPherson incumbent Tin Pei Ling garnered 65.58 per cent of the votes against opposition from the WP and National Solidarity Party.
TAKING STOCK OF THE “MASSIVE SWING”
For the first time, Singaporeans got an early indication of the score with the public release of the sample count results, from about 9.30pm.
As the final results rolled in, confirming the initial picture painted by the sample count results of a massive swing in votes towards the PAP, opposition parties and observers scrambled to make sense of the unexpected margins.
Mr Tan Jee Say from the Singapore First party said the figures were “worse than expected” and the “substantial swing to the PAP” was “contrary to feedback we received on the ground”. He said: “Everywhere we went it looked like people were more angry and more disappointed with government policies… So we really have to ask why this has happened.”
SingFirst received only 22.29 per cent of the vote in Tanjong Pagar GRC and 20.72 per cent in Jurong GRC.
More than one party felt the PAP had successfully capitalised the SG50 mood and the “Lee Kuan Yew effect”. The Singapore Democratic Alliance’s Harminder Pal Singh added the changes to electoral boundaries, swing votes from new citizens and the PAP’s “constant harping on the town council issue” to the list.
The SDA lost in Pasir Ris-Punggol GRC with 27.11 per cent of the vote.
WP chief Low Thia Khiang was philosophical about the loss of Punggol East. “That’s elections. You win, you lose,” he said. “If you look at the result, with the massive swing, I think the Workers’ Party has done pretty well.”
In all the divisions it contested, the party got more than 32 per cent of the votes, including 39.27 per cent in East Coast GRC and 42.48 per cent in Fengshan SMC.
Mr Low said: “I think that we’ve run a good campaign. We have done our best, we have presented our best candidates to the voters. I think the candidates have conducted themselves very well in this election. So yes, I am satisfied with the performance.”
He congratulated the PAP on its “strong mandate” – but said that with it, he hoped the ruling party would think about building trust between citizens and the national institutions such as the civil service, judiciary and media, as this was important to the future of Singapore.
AN “UNDEMOCRATIC SYSTEM”: CHEE
Singapore Democratic Party chief Chee Soon Juan said the results were “not a rejection” of the party’s policies. The SDP continued to believe in its message and the way it approached politics, and would look ahead to the next elections.
He added: “The Opposition still labours under an undemocratic system. I worry that if we continue on in this fashion, the future of Singapore is not where we want to see it go.” Dr Chee helmed the SDP team in Holland-Bukit Timah GRC that got 33.38 per cent of the votes.
Reform Party chief Kenneth Jeyaretnam, whose team in West Coast GRC only garnered 21.43 per cent of the votes, was notably bitter. While the party had not gotten the influx of volunteers that it had in 2011, he said: “We put this down to the novelty of a new party wearing off. But now we see it’s a nationwide swing to the PAP.”
“We weren’t helped by the fact that we lost Clementi ward in which we scored highly in the last election. What I can say is, this is not a mandate for the PAP’s economic policies – we had a better manifesto and economic plan. All this is, is a mandate for authoritarianism and brainwashing. What happens when you control everybody’s housing, savings, jobs, the media. And there’s no independent elections department.
“So, all I see is similar ambitions with North Korea and China, like the Chinese Communist Party; and I guess Singaporeans get the government they deserve,” said Mr Jeyaretnam.
Mr Goh Meng Seng, of the newly-formed People’s Power Party that received just 23.11 per cent of the vote in Chua Chu Kang GRC, thought voters could have been swayed by the fear created by the PAP about a freak result.
But psychology professor David Chan, who was part of a Channel NewsAsia panel, thought that such anxiety could have been created instead by the Opposition appearing to do too well. Voters who wanted a PAP Government, but with more opposition MPs, could have gotten cold feet about voting for the Opposition, thinking that many others would do likewise too.
Mr Devadas Krishnadas, the CEO of Future-Moves Group who was also on the panel, called the result a “landslide” for the PAP and said it was “hard to imagine the smaller parties picking up the pieces and carrying on”.
He suggested that the opposition parties could ironically have made some of the mistakes the PAP had previously. For instance, he said, perhaps those parties that were shocked by the results were looking for views from the ground that confirmed only what they wanted to hear.
It was “bizarre” that the type of candidates the WP fielded seemed to mirror the PAP of the past, whereas the ruling party has adopted a different approach of coming down to the ground and spending more “face time” with residents, he said.
Nonetheless, Mr Krishnadas said it was important to acknowledge those who stepped forward to stand for elections. “While it is true this is a landslide result, what’s more important is the premise … (that makes this) an unambiguous result.”
“We also have the greatest number of Singaporeans in recent memory participating in the polls. These are reasons to celebrate regardless of where you happen to be on the spectrum of the results curve,” he said.
PAP CANDIDATES “HUMBLED BY VOTERS’ TRUST”
Among the winning PAP candidates, clear common themes arose in their victory speeches and interviews: Gratitude to voters, the humbling mandate, and the work to be done.
For example, Cabinet Minister Grace Fu – one of the first winners to be announced on Friday night – said that while she was happy to see her share of the vote in Yuhua SMC improve from 66.9 per cent in 2011 to 73.54 per cent, she was “very humbled” by the mandate and would work hard to prove herself worthy of voters’ trust.
Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong, in his victory speech for Ang Mo Kio GRC, told voters: “We are very grateful and happy but at the same time humbled by the result, by the trust you have put on us, by the responsibility we have taken on to serve you.”
Some also struck a conciliatory note. Minister for Social and Family Development Tan Chuan-Jin ended his speech to Marine Parade voters saying: “Whatever happens tonight, let us come back tomorrow as one.”
Deputy Prime Minister Teo Chee Hean promised Pasir Ris-Punggol residents that the PAP team would “continue to work with you whether you have voted for us or not, and hope that we will be able to win you over”.
Deputy Prime Minister Tharman Shanmugaratnam, whose Jurong GRC enjoyed the biggest win, said: “There is a lot of work ahead … to help every young child to have the best chance in life regardless of who his parents are; to help mid-career Singaporeans to have good careers, and on a level playing field; and a lot of work ahead to help our seniors who built up Singapore to live satisfying dignified lives in their retirement.”
“This is PM Lee’s plan for Singapore. We are humbled by voters’ trust in us and faith in our plans, and we will work very hard to take it forward. How? By continuing to listen, by being open to all ideas, and checking ourselves when we make mistakes and correcting them as well as we can,” he said.
Prof Chan noted that since the angst over the population White Paper in January 2013, the PAP had had only two-and-a-half years to react, and it was not clear whether citizens were convinced by its policy shifts. “So, the believability issue was hanging around in minds. Today, you probably got the answer.”
Mr Krishnadas said the PAP had made a “big gamble” in the last four years, making structural commitments that there was “no way to unwind” in the hopes Singaporeans would support the course they were taking. “So it will be a great relief to them that they put their chips on the right table,” he said.
Source: Channel News Asia