Saturday, 11 July 2020

GE2020 results: PAP wins 83 of 93 seats; WP takes two GRCs

PAP returns to power with 83 seats, but loses Sengkang and Aljunied GRCs in hard-fought COVID-19 election
By Warren Fernandez, Editor-in-Chief, The Straits Times, 11 Jul 2020

Singaporeans returned the People's Action Party (PAP) to government, handing it 83 of the 93 seats, but there was a major upset in Sengkang GRC, which fell to the Workers' Party (WP), amid a stronger showing for the opposition.

In what was dubbed a crisis election, or the COVID-19 polls, the PAP won 61.24 per cent of the votes, an 8.7-point swing from its 69.9 per cent share in the 2015 polls.

This was slightly above the 60.1 per cent it garnered in 2011, which was the party's worst showing.

The election, billed as the most significant since Singapore's independence given the backdrop of the pandemic, will see the opposition presence almost doubled to 10 elected MPs in the next Parliament, Singapore's 14th, since 1965.

Speaking at a 4.30am press conference, Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong said the PAP had been given a "clear mandate" and a "good result". Although the share of the popular vote was not as high as he would have liked, it still reflected broad based support for the PAP, he said.

"I will use this mandate responsibly to deal with COVID-19 and the economic downturn and to take us safely through the crisis and beyond," he said. "At the same time, the results reflect the pain and anxiety that Singaporeans feel in this crisis," he added, noting that this was not a feel-good election.

He described the loss of NTUC chief Ng Chee Meng, as well as Dr Lam Pin Min and Mr Amrin Amin, from the Sengkang GRC slate as a "significant loss" for the country's fourth-generation leadership.

Flanked by several members of his Cabinet from the party's 3G and 4G leadership, he repeated his pledge that he and his senior Cabinet colleagues would stay to see Singapore through the COVID-19 crisis.

He noted that the election also showed that there was a "desire for more diversity" of views in Parliament, which would have 10 elected opposition MPs and two Non-Constituency MPs,

He added that he had called WP chief Pritam Singh to congratulate him on his party's good showing, and offered him the official designation as Leader of the Opposition. Mr Singh thanked him for this.

The fears of a wipeout of the opposition, which the WP and others had warned about, proved unfounded, he added.

Instead, the opposition turned in a strong showing, with the WP snagging its second GRC, as well as enjoying a near 10-point swing in its Aljunied GRC base, taking 59.93 per cent of the vote there, and holding on to its Hougang seat.

The WP's plea to voters not to hand the ruling party a "blank cheque" to shape policy at will appeared to have swayed voters.

But the other opposition parties, including the fledgling Progress Singapore Party (PSP) and the Singapore Democratic Party (SDP), which forced close fights in several seats, ended the night empty-handed.

PSP chief Tan Cheng Bock and SDP's Dr Chee Soon Juan both looked dejected early this morning, declaring that they were "disappointed" with the results.

The PAP had urged the 2.65 million voters registered for the polls to give its tried and trusted team a "strong mandate" to take the country through the crisis, securing their lives, jobs and future.

In the end, the widely expected "flight to safety" in a crisis, given the PAP's track record leading Singapore for over six decades, did not materialise.

Instead, the PAP's share of the vote was down from its high score in 2015, which was a Jubilee Year for Singapore, and which also saw the passing of founding Prime Minister Lee Kuan Yew, which moved Singaporeans deeply, and contributed to the PAP securing a better result than most had anticipated then.

The WP pulled off the biggest upset, with its slate of mostly fresh faces in the newly carved out Sengkang GRC securing 52.13 per cent of the vote. Speaking at a press conference at close to 4am, Mr Singh thanked voters for supporting the party and said it will not let the results "get over our heads, as there was much work to do".

The key battleground seats in the east and the west proved to be close calls. Deputy Prime Minister Heng Swee Keat, whose last-minute tactical switch to East Coast GRC caught most by surprise, pulled in 53.4 per cent of the votes, down from the 60.7 per cent the party managed in 2015. This was a tad down from the 54.8 per cent the PAP secured in 2011.

Over in the west, the keenly watched contest for West Coast GRC proved to be a nail biter, with the PAP holding on to it, but narrowly, with 51.7 per cent of the votes.

Amid the ongoing outbreak, voters had to cast their ballots wearing masks, after sanitising their hands, and while keeping a safe distance from others. This caused some delays which led to long queues forming at several polling stations, prompting an extension of voting hours to 10pm and drawing protests from the opposition camp.

The PAP had sought a strong mandate to tackle the ongoing COVID-19 crisis. But in the end, in the face of the worst crisis to hit Singapore in many decades, most voters plumped for the party which has pulled Singapore through many a difficult moment in the past to take decisive charge, but without a blank cheque, as it shapes the country's response to the challenges to come.


Election results a clear mandate for PAP, says PM Lee
But outcome also reflects a desire for a diversity of voices in Parliament, he adds
By Royston Sim, Deputy Political Editor, The Straits Times, 11 Jul 2020

The People’s Action Party (PAP) has received a clear mandate in the general election, but the results also show a desire for a diversity of voices in Parliament, said Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong.

PM Lee said that while the ruling party’s share of the popular vote – 61.24 per cent – was not as high as he had hoped for, it still reflected a broad base of support for the PAP.

“Singaporeans understand what is at stake and why we must come together to uphold our national interests,” he said at a virtual press conference held at The Treasury building at around 4.30am.

He added that he was “honoured and humbled” by the faith Singaporeans have put in the PAP, which he leads as its secretary-general.

“I will use this mandate responsibly to deal with COVID-19 and the economic downturn and to take us safely through the crisis and beyond,” he said.

The PAP’s vote share in this crisis election fell by 8.62 percentage points from 2015, but remained higher than the 60.1 per cent that it garnered in 2011.

The results, PM Lee said, are indicative of the pain and uncertainty that Singaporeans feel in the COVID-19 crisis – the loss of income, anxiety about jobs and the disruption caused by the circuit breaker and safe distancing restrictions.

“This was not a feel-good election, but one where people are facing real problems and expect more rough weather to come,” he said.

While Singaporeans want the PAP to form the Government, he acknowledged that the electorate – especially younger voters – also want to see a larger opposition presence in Parliament.

The PAP won 83 out of 93 seats, losing a second group representation constituency – the newly created four-member Sengkang GRC – to the Workers’ Party, which will have a record 10 elected MPs in the 14th Parliament.

PM Lee expressed disappointment that the PAP lost in Sengkang, adding that the team led by labour chief Ng Chee Meng “always knew it was going to be a tough fight”.

“They gave it their all but Sengkang voters have spoken and we respect their decision,” he said.

The defeat means Mr Ng and the other members of his team will not be in Parliament, which PM Lee said was a major loss, especially as Mr Ng is the secretary-general of the National Trades Union Congress.

Flanked by PAP first and second assistant secretaries-general Heng Swee Keat and Chan Chun Sing, party vice-chairman Masagos Zulkifli, treasurer K. Shanmugam and organising secretary Grace Fu at the press conference, PM Lee pledged to serve all Singaporeans.

“Whether or not you voted for the PAP, we will listen to you, do our best to address your concerns and try to win your support,” he said.

He added that he took the results as an endorsement of the PAP’s policies and plans. “We will take this forward and work with Singapore to realise those plans and solve the problems which we have.”

Whether the election outcome is seen as a strengthening of Singapore will depend not only on the PAP, but also on the opposition, PM Lee said.

Asked if the PAP had lost the youth vote, he said young people have “very significantly different life aspirations and priorities”, and this will have to be reflected in the political process and in government policies. He also asked younger Singaporeans to look, with an open mind, “at what the previous generations have done to examine what is relevant... and to learn from these experiences hard won by their parents and grandparents, so that they don’t have to learn them all over again and pay a high price, which has already been paid”.

On the long queues seen at some polling stations, which required the Returning Officer to extend polling hours from 8pm to 10pm so all Singaporeans could cast their vote, PM Lee said the voting arrangements could have been done better, and that a thorough review will be done to improve the process.

With the election over, the Prime Minister called on Singaporeans to put aside their differences and close ranks to support the Government in steering the country through the COVID-19 crisis safely.

He said he was determined to hand over Singapore to the fourth generation leadership team “intact and in good working order”.

“My Government will work with all of you to overcome the present health and economic crisis and emerge stronger. With this election now behind us, let us work as one Singapore to secure our lives, our jobs and our future,” he said.

WP chief to be named Leader of the Opposition
Pritam Singh will be given staff support and resources to carry out this role, says PM Lee
By Linette Lai, Political Correspondent, The Straits Times, 11 Jul 2020

Workers’ Party (WP) chief Pritam Singh will be formally appointed Leader of the Opposition, said Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong.

And Mr Singh, whose party now has 10 MPs in Parliament, will be given the staff support and resources to carry out this role, PM Lee added.

Speaking early this morning after the polling results, PM Lee said the election results show a clear desire for a diversity of voices in Parliament.

He said: “Singaporeans want the PAP to form the government, but they – and especially the younger voters – also want to see more opposition presence in Parliament.” He added that he had called Mr Singh to congratulate him on his party’s strong performance.

PM Lee said he looks forward to the 10 new opposition MPs and two Non-Constituency MPs (NCMPs) participating in and contributing to debates in Parliament, as well as to the national debate as Singapore deals with the urgent issues before it.

Early this morning, the WP secured 10 seats in three constituencies. It won with 61.19 per cent of the votes to retain its hold on the single-seat constituency of Hougang, and 59.93 per cent in the four-member Aljunied GRC, which it has held since 2011.

It also added another GRC to its stable by winning 52.13 per cent of the votes in the five-member Sengkang GRC.

The Progress Singapore Party (PSP) secured two NCMP seats in West Coast GRC, where the ruling People’s Action Party (PAP) won with 51.69 per cent of the votes.

PSP chief Tan Cheng Bock has said he will not take up the offer of an NCMP seat, and that he will leave the choice to the party’s central executive committee.

Speaking to reporters at a virtual press conference in the early hours of the morning, PM Lee noted his earlier remarks on Nomination Day that this election would be a tough fight for the ruling party. Opposition parties had warned of a wipeout, but he had completely disagreed. He turned out to be right, PM Lee said.

Deputy Prime Minister Heng Swee Keat, whose five-member team won 53.4 per cent of the votes in East Coast GRC, added that he had spoken to two members of the opposing team, Mr Terence Tan and Ms Nicole Seah.

Mr Heng said: “They said that, look, we must work together and this is about Singapore... the interests of Singapore and Singaporeans. So I look forward to the Workers’ Party playing a constructive role and putting national interest before party interest.”

PM Lee said that an election is an “act of collective choice” and Singaporeans have now chosen the PAP as the government.

“I ask every citizen to support the team that you have chosen and to work with us,” he said.

He added: “Now that the election is over, we need to put all our differences aside, close ranks, and work together on the task at hand, which is to get us through the crisis safely.

“The challenges ahead call for not only a whole-of-government response, but a whole-of-nation response, and that work has continued throughout this campaign and will carry on starting tomorrow.”

PM Lee: Sengkang defeat a significant loss to 4G team
By Lim Yan Liang, Assistant Political Editor, The Straits Times, 11 Jul 2020

The People’s Action Party (PAP) will work hard to win back Sengkang GRC at the next election, the same way it continues to fight in Aljunied GRC and Hougang SMC, Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong said early this morning.

While the PAP sees the outcome of GE2020 as a clear mandate, the loss of a group representation constituency (GRC) and three officeholders is a “major loss” to the Government and the fourth-generation leadership team, PM Lee said in a post-election press conference.

“They gave it their all, but Sengkang voters have spoken and we respect their decision,” said PM Lee.

“It is, however, a major loss to my team and to the 4G leaders, especially as Ng Chee Meng is the secretary- general of the NTUC.”

In the largest upset of the election, the Workers’ Party (WP) won Sengkang GRC with 60,136 votes to the PAP’s 55,214 votes.

By clinching 52.13 per cent of the votes, the WP broke new ground to win its historic second group representation constituency.

While Mr Ng remains secretary-general of the National Trades Union Congress (NTUC), his longer term role is in doubt as the labour chief is traditionally a member of the Cabinet, serving as the Government’s topmost link with labour unions, workers and businesses.

The loss of the new GRC to the WP also means the bowing out of two other office-holders – Dr Lam Pin Min and Mr Amrin Amin.

PM Lee said Dr Lam, who is Senior Minister of State for Health, and Transport, had made contributions in a range of areas, while Mr Amrin had been a very promising, young Senior Parliamentary Secretary for Home Affairs and Health.

Dr Lam had been an MP since 2006, while Mr Ng and Mr Amrin made their electoral debuts in the last election in 2015.

While the final member of the PAP’s Sengkang slate Raymond Lye was a new candidate, he has been a longstanding grassroots leader in Punggol East, said PM Lee. He said Mr Lye “knows the area well, intimately, and would have been able to add a very good feel to the team of the needs of the residents”.

“It is a loss not to have them in my MPs team and in my Cabinet, but we will move forward and move on from here, as we did after Aljunied went to the opposition in 2011.”

PM Lee said he was “naturally disappointed” that the PAP lost Sengkang GRC, but the PAP team led by Mr Ng knew that this election would be a tough fight. This was why on Nomination Day he “completely disagreed” with opposition parties like the WP that there could be a possible opposition wipeout.

“I have spoken to Chee Meng and his GRC team to thank them, and to encourage them to continue to serve the party and Singapore in different ways,” said PM Lee.

“The PAP will strive to win back Sengkang GRC. We will also continue to fight to win back Aljunied GRC and Hougang SMC.”

With the election over, PM Lee called on Singaporeans to put differences aside and work together on the task at hand, which is to emerge from the COVID-19 crisis safely.

“My team and I will serve all Singaporeans, whichever party you vote for,” he said.

“Whether or not you voted for the PAP, we will listen to you, do our best to address your concerns and try to win your support.”

Govt will continue push to win investors’ confidence: PM Lee
The Straits Times, 11 Jul 2020

The People’s Action Party (PAP) has earned a “good result” in this election, and the Government will continue to fight to persuade the business community that Singapore is worthy of its confidence and investment, Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong said early this morning.

The Government will show that this is so by how it takes Singapore forward from the general election.

But this depends not only on actions of the Government, but also on the opposition’s ability to convince investors that there is a responsible opposition that understands the national interest and will put that before party politics, he added.

PM Lee, the PAP’s secretary-general, was speaking at a virtual press conference after the final election results, which saw the PAP win 61.24 per cent of the national vote share.

The press conference in the early hours of this morning was live-streamed from The Treasury.

The Workers’ Party (WP) retained the five-member Aljunied GRC and the single seat of Hougang, and also won the newly formed four-member Sengkang GRC.

This took the number of elected opposition MPs in Parliament to 10 – a record high.

During the hustings, PM Lee had called on voters to give the PAP a strong mandate to lead the country through the COVID-19 crisis.

He said investors will scrutinise the election results to see if Singaporeans are still one united people, strongly supporting the leaders they have chosen to overcome the crisis.

Thus, maintaining Singapore’s “high reputation” is a matter of survival for the country, so it can attract investments from multinational corporations and be taken seriously by other countries, he had said.

Deputy Prime Minister Heng Swee Keat, who is also Finance Minister, added that the Government must press on with the work of economic restructuring and industry transformation.

“The work of protecting jobs, saving jobs and creating new jobs must continue,” he said.

“It is important for us to continue to emphasise the fundamentals that we have and... to be able to enhance investors’ confidence.”

Mr Heng, who is the PAP’s first assistant secretary-general, added: “The opposition must be prepared to work together in order to safeguard our national interests.”

He added that he had a “short chat” with the WP’s East Coast GRC candidates Nicole Seah and Terence Tan earlier in the day. The PAP’s East Coast GRC team that Mr Heng led won 53.41 per cent of the vote.

“They said that, look, we must work together, and this is about Singapore, Singapore’s interest, and about our national interest,” said Mr Heng.

“So I look forward to the Workers’ Party playing a constructive role and putting national interests before party interest.”

GE2020 results: Heng Swee Keat's PAP team wins East Coast GRC against WP, with 53% of votes
By Linette Lai, Political Correspondent and Jolene Ang, The Straits Times, 11 Jul 2020

The People's Action Party (PAP) team led by Deputy Prime Minister Heng Swee Keat has retained East Coast GRC with 53.41 per cent of the votes.

The PAP's vote share is down from 2015, when it won 60.73 per cent. Both times, it claimed victory against a team from the Workers' Party (WP).

The contest this time was closely watched as the WP had fielded some of its stronger teams there since first mounting a challenge to the ruling party in the 2006 General Election.

Mr Heng thanked voters for braving the long queues and hot sun to cast their votes.

"My team and I thank you for your trust and support for us. With your mandate, we are determined to serve you better and to emerge stronger from this global pandemic," said Mr Heng, who also thanked the WP for giving his team a "strong contest".

Mr Heng's surprise move to helm the PAP's East Coast team on Nomination Day significantly strengthened the PAP slate. The 59-year-old moved over from Tampines GRC, to replace former minister and labour chief Lim Swee Say, who has retired from politics.

One of the hallmarks of Mr Heng's political style is an emphasis on consultation and conversation.

He entered politics in 2011 after 27 years in the public service. In 2012, when he was education minister, Mr Heng launched the Our Singapore Conversation series to get Singaporeans talking about the kind of country they want to build for the future.

He was appointed deputy prime minister in May last year and as the PAP's first assistant secretary-general, is No. 2 in both the Cabinet and the ruling party.

A year ago, he detailed plans on how the fourth-generation political leadership team aims to work with Singaporeans in a movement they are calling Singapore Together.

And on the last day of the campaigning period, he unveiled plans for a new East Coast Conversation series for residents to talk about the issues they care about.

Much of his time at the hustings was spent getting to know residents in the GRC with 121,772 registered voters. On top of his house visits, Mr Heng has visited most major markets and food centres in East Coast GRC at least twice during the campaigning period.

Apart from Mr Heng, the PAP's five-member team in East Coast comprises Senior Minister of State for Defence and Foreign Affairs Maliki Osman, 54; Ms Jessica Tan, 54; Ms Cheryl Chan, 44; and new face Tan Kiat How, 43. Mr Tan was formerly chief executive of the Infocomm Media Development Authority before he resigned last month to enter politics.

They were up against a WP team led by lawyer Terence Tan, 49, the WP's deputy organising secretary, and which included Ms Nicole Seah, 33. She was the National Solidarity Party's star candidate in the 2011 election.

After the results were announced, Ms Seah thanked voters for their support. "We went into this knowing that it was going to be a tough fight and we gave it our best."

East Coast GRC was created in 1997, when Bedok GRC was expanded to take in parts of Eunos, Marine Parade, Tampines, Changi and Aljunied. It has been contested four times so far, all by the WP.

In 2006, the PAP team won with 63.86 per cent of the vote. Its vote share dropped to 54.83 per cent in 2011, then went up to 60.73 per cent in the last general election in 2015.

The WP team ran a campaign championing diversity in Parliament and "a balanced system", among other issues.

The PAP team focused instead on issues such as jobs for residents and a new plan for East Coast.

Mr Heng also called on voters not to be "taken in" by opposition parties' claims of a wipe-out, given that the Non-Constituency MP scheme guarantees opposition voices in Parliament.

Dr Felix Tan, an associate lecturer at SIM Global Education, noted that Mr Heng's results showed that there is support for his leadership.

"After all, his team is facing a very strong opposition (team) from the WP. Plus, DPM Heng shifted to East Coast GRC at the last minute as well," he said.

National University of Singapore political scientist Bilveer Singh, who is an East Coast resident, added: "Mr Heng's coming here saved the constituency for the PAP. I think he will spend the next five years building it up."

PAP retains West Coast GRC with 51.69% of votes against Tan Cheng Bock's PSP
By S Thyaga Rajan, Lim Min Zhang and Fabian Koh, The Straits Times, 11 Jul 2020

The People's Action Party (PAP) came out on top with 51.69 per cent of the votes in West Coast GRC, in a closely fought contest against a team led by one of its former stalwarts, Dr Tan Cheng Bock.

The result is a 26-point drop in the vote share for the PAP from the 2015 election, when it secured 78.57 per cent of the votes against the Reform Party.

Dr Tan's Progress Singapore Party (PSP) team secured 48.31 per cent of the votes, with 138,416 total valid votes out of 140,061 votes cast.

The West Coast PAP team this time was helmed by Minister for Communications and Information S. Iswaran, 58, who has now been re-elected in six straight general elections. He has contested all of them in West Coast GRC - which was created in 1997.

Since then, the ruling party has seen two walkovers and challenges from the Workers' Party and Reform Party in West Coast, but has never secured less than 66.6 per cent of the votes until now.

Mr Iswaran's team this year comprised Minister for Social and Family Development Desmond Lee, 43, Ms Foo Mee Har, 54, Mr Ang Wei Neng, 53, and new candidate Rachel Ong, 47.

They were up against Dr Tan, 80, PSP assistant secretary-general Leong Mun Wai, 60, Ms Hazel Poa, 50, Mr Nadarajah Loganathan, 57, and Mr Jeffrey Khoo, 51.

Speaking to reporters early this morning after the election results, Mr Iswaran thanked the voters of West Coast GRC, and acknowledged the opposition PSP for putting up a "vigorous contest".

More importantly, he said, the PSP presented a choice to the voters of West Coast, and gave them a chance to think about what they wanted to vote for, and "we are glad that they have chosen us".

When asked about the small margin of victory in West Coast, Mr Iswaran said: "I think we have to go back and study the results, and understand for ourselves what are the reasons that might have accounted for this, and that's not just at the GRC level, but it will also have to be at the party level.

"And then we will take appropriate actions, whether it's through national policies and programmes, but also in terms of local initiatives, and we are fully committed to that."

Dr Tan, at a separate press briefing, said that although his team did not win, he was happy to have achieved more than 40 per cent of the votes, especially in an area where support for the PAP is strong.

"I think that's a great achievement already. It shows that, actually, the PAP didn't do well. It's not a strong mandate. I don't think the Prime Minister can be very happy about all this," he added.

The contest between the two parties in this constituency was among the tightest in the election, pitting a team led by Dr Tan - a retired general practitioner - against his former party. He ran a campaign calling for greater transparency, putting workers and businesses first, and touting his track record as a former PAP MP.

Dr Tan, who was making a return to his old stomping ground as an opposition candidate, is a well-known face in the area. He was a popular MP who held the Ayer Rajah seat for the ruling party for 26 years from 1980 to 2006, when his stronghold was absorbed into West Coast GRC.

However, it has been 14 years since he retired as a PAP MP, and voter profiles in the area are likely to have changed, which are among the factors that may have led to the PSP's defeat.

The PAP team this time included a second minister after Mr Lee moved over from Jurong GRC to replace former minister Lim Hng Kiang, who retired from politics.

The PAP campaigned on creating jobs, providing employment assistance, strengthening social safety nets and initiatives for youth and families.

Traditionally viewed as a PAP stronghold, West Coast GRC absorbed parts of Chua Chu Kang GRC and Hong Kah North SMC for this election, and was expanded from four members to five. The number of voters increased from 99,300 in 2015 to 146,089 this year.

West Coast GRC voter Andy Tan, 28, said he did not expect the contest to be this tight, considering how the PAP has historically won the GRC by a comfortable margin.

The operations manager, who declined to say whom he voted for, said: "The PSP put up a good fight considering they have less resources and couldn't hold physical rallies.

"The retirement of a long-serving MP like Mr Lim Hng Kiang, after serving for 29 years, may also have swayed some voters to vote for a change."

WP wins Sengkang GRC with 52.13% of votes
Team of fresh faces beats experienced PAP slate to clinch opposition party's second GRC
By Toh Wen Li and Lim Yan Liang, The Straits Times, 11 Jul 2020

In the largest upset of the election, the Workers' Party (WP) won the new Sengkang GRC, garnering 52.13 per cent of the vote against a 47.87 per cent share for the People's Action Party (PAP).

The WP took 60,136 votes while the PAP got 55,214 votes of 115,350 valid votes. This victory sees the fresh-faced WP team break new ground and claim the opposition party's second GRC, following a tough fight in a constituency with many younger voters.

The WP's team was led by lawyer He Ting Ru, 37, alongside economics professor Jamus Lim, 44, social enterprise founder Raeesah Khan, 26, and equity research analyst Louis Chua Kheng Wee, 33.

The PAP team consisted of labour chief and Minister in the Prime Minister's Office Ng Chee Meng, 51, Senior Minister of State for Transport and Health Lam Pin Min, 50, Senior Parliamentary Secretary for Home Affairs and Health Amrin Amin, 41, and lawyer Raymond Lye, 54.

Ms He last night thanked the people of Sengkang GRC and pledged to work hard in the constituency. "Thank you so much for the trust and leap of faith you have taken in our team here today. We will work hard to make sure that this trust is not misplaced."

Speaking to reporters at the WP headquarters, party chief Pritam Singh said: "Today's results are positive but we have to hit the ground running. We should not get over our heads with the results. There's much work to do and I can assure you this Workers' Party team is committed to serve Singapore, to serve the voters who voted for us and those who chose to vote for our opponents, equally and faithfully."

As former WP chief Low Thia Khiang did in 2011 when the WP first won Aljunied GRC, Mr Singh delivered his remarks seriously, stressing he was feeling "humbled" rather than "euphoric".

Sengkang GRC had absorbed Punggol East SMC and part of Sengkang West SMC, traditional stomping grounds for the WP. The battle in north-east Singapore was among the most closely watched contests in this general election.

Pundits had expected this fight in Sengkang to be intense for several reasons: the WP's history and presence in the area, the "unpredictability factor" of a new GRC and the performance of Associate Professor Jamus Lim, who won praise for how he handled himself in a televised debate during the campaign.

At the live debate, Prof Lim had urged Singaporeans to vote for the WP and deny the PAP "a blank cheque".

The PAP's surprise decision to move Deputy Prime Minister Heng Swee Keat from Tampines GRC to East Coast GRC - thereby reducing the WP's chances in East Coast - also shifted public attention to the WP's "next-strongest" team, analysts said.

Besides Punggol East and part of Sengkang West, the four-member group representation constituency that was created after electoral boundaries were redrawn in March also took in the Sengkang Central ward of Pasir Ris-Punggol GRC.

The GRC has a younger, more middle-class demographic than the national average.

In 2015, PAP stalwart Charles Chong won Punggol East SMC by a slim 51.77 per cent of the vote, against WP incumbent Lee Li Lian. Ms Lee had won the single seat in a 2013 by-election. The 2015 election also saw the PAP's Dr Lam win Sengkang West SMC with 62.13 per cent of the vote against WP opponent Koh Choong Yong.

PAP insiders told The Straits Times that the party did better among older residents, especially in the former Punggol East SMC, which is the older part of Sengkang.

By comparison, Anchorvale and Sengkang Central consist mainly of young families in the HDB estates.

During the nine-day campaign, the PAP team had an inkling the contest could be harder than originally thought, said one party insider. The team met some hostility among some younger voters.

It did not help that the two PAP candidates that were to take over in Sengkang Central - Mr Ng and Mr Amrin - were new to the area and unfamiliar to the residents, he said.

"It rang alarm bells, but it was too late (in the campaign)," he added.

The new GRC also had its fair share of drama during the campaign. On the weekend before Polling Day, two police reports were filed against WP's Ms Raeesah for remarks she made in two Facebook posts in February 2018 and May this year. She apologised that same weekend and was joined by her Sengkang teammates as well as WP leaders Pritam Singh and Sylvia Lim, who expressed their support.

Asked by ST why he thought the vote had swung in WP's favour, Mr Ng said: "Let us take some time to regroup and evaluate the different factors... Let us discuss with colleagues and get a thorough understanding of the ground again... and then we can plot our way forward."

Residents in neighbourhoods such as Anchorvale greeted the history-making results with cheers when the sample count earlier in the night indicated the GRC was likely to go the WP's way.

Said Sengkang resident and hotel manager Akmal Yusoff, 30: "With change comes a bit of uncertainty. I do hope this will be a positive one for my family and our estate, and I look forward to see good things in our neighbourhood.

"I look forward to seeing how this team can share a fresh voice in our government policies."

Additional reporting by Tan Tam Mei

Pritam Singh leads Workers' Party to victory in Aljunied GRC with higher margin than in 2015
By Tham Yuen-C, Senior Political Correspondent and Audrey Tan, Correspondent, The Straits Times, 11 Jul 2020

Workers' Party (WP) chief Pritam Singh led his party's A-team to victory in Aljunied GRC in his first electoral outing since taking over the helm, retaining the five-member constituency with a significantly higher margin than in 2015.

The WP won 59.93 per cent of the votes against the PAP, which scored 40.07 per cent.

Party chairman Sylvia Lim, thanking residents last night, teared as she said in Mandarin: "WP sincerely thanks you for giving us your trust again. Your vote speaks to how there needs to be more diversity in Parliament so that we can better fight for the rights of the people. We will do our best and work for the people."

In 2015, it barely held on to its turf with the slimmest of margins, triggering a recount. Then, after a nail-biting wait that lasted into the wee hours of the morning after Polling Day, it was declared the winner with 50.95 per cent of votes.

In 2011, the WP's vote share was 54.72 per cent.

The WP's win this round is a nod to the leadership of Mr Singh, 43, who took the reins from former chief Low Thia Khiang in 2018.

Mr Singh, speaking after Ms Lim, told voters: "Without your support, there's very little we can do. But together, we can do a lot more for Singapore and we have to work hard for it."

Mr Low, 63, did not contest the election, the first time he has sat one out since 1988. Besides Mr Low, fellow GRC MP Chen Show Mao, 59, also stood down.

Mr Singh thanked voters for supporting the refreshed Aljunied "the same way you gave support to the WP team that came before us".

The WP's GE2020 Aljunied slate included two incumbent Aljunied GRC MPs: Ms Lim, 55, and Mr Faisal Manap, 45. They were joined by two former Non-Constituency MPs - Mr Leon Perera, 49, and Mr Gerald Giam, 42.

It was up against a so-called "suicide squad" from the PAP, which did not include any ministers. The PAP slate was led by artificial intelligence fintech chief executive Victor Lye, 58; and included lawyer Alex Yeo, 41; marketing director Chan Hui Yuh, 44; bank executive Chua Eng Leong, 48; and Centre for Domestic Employees executive director Shamsul Kamar, 48.

Mr Lye, Mr Chua and Mr Shamsul were contesting in the GRC for the second time, while Ms Chan and Mr Yeo are new faces.

Aljunied GRC, home to 151,007 voters, covers parts of Hougang, Paya Lebar, Serangoon Gardens, Serangoon North, Bedok Reservoir and Kaki Bukit.

In 2011, the WP made history when it won Aljunied, the first time an opposition party wrested a group representation constituency from the PAP. That year, Mr Low made a last-minute switch from his Hougang stronghold. His decision not to stand for election this time initially sparked speculation that those who voted for the WP may no longer have a reason to do so.

In the end though, this did not dent the party's chances. Instead, the WP's message of denying the PAP a blank cheque resonated.

Mr Singh, returning to the party's slogan "Make your vote count", also appealed to voters to think of their own interests, saying that the Government has shown it is more responsive to people's concerns when it loses elected seats.

To hammer home the message, he warned that there was a real risk of an opposition wipe-out.

The PAP team's message of "bring us home" and programmes it had introduced failed to gain traction.

The WP also sought to address questions over the thorny issue of the Aljunied-Hougang Town Council (AHTC) saga, which has stretched on since the WP took over the town council in 2011. While the saga is not over - a lawsuit by AHTC against its town councillors is on appeal - the party's improved vote share suggests that the issue was not a huge factor at the ballot box.

PAP insiders in the day said that they expected an early night - meaning there would be no recount this time.

And so it was.

PM Lee's team wins 72% of votes to retain Ang Mo Kio GRC
Result a clear sign of support from voters; polls may well be the last he leads as PM
By Low Lin Fhoong, The Straits Times, 11 Jul 2020

The People's Action Party (PAP) team led by Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong secured a resounding win in Ang Mo Kio GRC with 71.91 per cent of the votes against the Reform Party (RP).

While slightly lower than their winning vote share in 2015 of 78.64 per cent, the result was a clear sign of support from voters in a campaign that may well be the last that Mr Lee, 68, leads as prime minister.

Back in 2012, he had said in an interview that he hoped not to continue as prime minister beyond the age of 70, which would be in 2022. He has been prime minister for 16 years since August 2004, and MP for Teck Ghee ward in Ang Mo Kio GRC since 1984.

PM Lee arrived at the PAP's Teck Ghee branch to applause just after 2am on Saturday morning. He was accompanied by his wife Ho Ching.

Later, during a press conference streamed live on the GRC's Facebook page, he and his team thanked Ang Mo Kio residents for their support and the opportunity to continue serving them. PM Lee spoke in Malay, Mandarin and English.

"To all residents and voters of Ang Mo Kio GRC, I thank you for your support for me and my team, for electing us once again to be your MPs for Ang Mo Kio GRC," he said in English.

"We are very conscious of the heavy responsibility you have given us. We are very grateful for your trust and confidence and we will do our best to serve you for the next five years," he added.

PM Lee had described this as a crisis election that will shape Singapore's future and emphasised that what is at stake is nothing less than "our lives, our jobs, our future", the title of the PAP manifesto. He said he had called the election to secure a strong mandate for the ruling party, which he leads as its secretary-general. The PAP's national share of the vote fell to 61.24 per cent, from 69.86 per cent in 2015.

PM Lee had said at the start of the campaign that the PAP would have to fight for every vote as people were feeling the pain and the uncertainty of the crisis acutely.

During the hustings, he also situated Ang Mo Kio constituency issues within the larger context of the Covid-19 outbreak. These include the need to protect the health of Ang Mo Kio's many elderly residents, and provide jobs and economic support to those hit by the economic fallout from the pandemic.

Another key issue for PM Lee is leadership renewal.

In this election, the PAP fielded a diverse slate of 27 new faces, including two who are in the Ang Mo Kio GRC team: Ms Ng Ling Ling, 48, an independent consultant at the Health Ministry's Office for Healthcare Transformation, and Ms Nadia Ahmad Samdin, 30, an associate director at TSMP Law Corporation. The PAP's five-member team also includes returning MPs Gan Thiam Poh, 56, and Darryl David, 49.

They came up against an RP team led by its secretary-general, Mr Kenneth Jeyaretnam, 61, the son of the late opposition MP J.B. Jeyaretnam. Also on the RP team were its chairman Andy Zhu, 37, Mr Darren Soh, 52, Ms Noraini Yunus, 52, and Mr Charles Yeo, 30.

Ang Mo Kio GRC, which encompasses Teck Ghee, Sengkang South, Ang Mo Kio-Hougang, Cheng San-Seletar and Jalan Kayu, has 185,465 voters. It is the largest among the 17 GRCs and 14 SMCs.

The constituency has been contested four times, by the Workers' Party in 2006, and the RP in 2011, 2015 and 2020.

The PAP's winning share of the votes rose from 66.14 per cent in 2006, to 69.33 per cent in 2011 and 78.64 per cent in 2015.

Comprising largely Housing Board flats, the constituency saw the Yio Chu Kang SMC carved out for the 2020 election, with the PAP's Mr Yip Hon Weng, 43, going up against the Progress Singapore Party's Ms Kayla Low, 43.

Yio Chu Kang, together with Kebun Baru SMC, which was claimed by the PAP's Mr Henry Kwek, will join the Ang Mo Kio Town Council.

As for the RP team, Mr Jeyaretnam said they were pleased with the response and would build on it. "We've proven that RP is a party of substance," he said.

Tharman's team in Jurong GRC is tops for PAP again
By Hariz Baharudin and Sandra Davie, The Straits Times, 11 Jul 2020

The People's Action Party (PAP) retained Jurong GRC with a thumping 74.62 per cent of the votes, fending off Singapore's newest party, Red Dot United (RDU), in the general election.

Jurong GRC was again the best-performing constituency for the PAP - the party had won 79.3 per cent of the votes in the GRC in the last general election in 2015.

The victory was expected, with Senior Minister Tharman Shanmugaratnam, 63, leading the Jurong GRC PAP team, and even following the exit of Minister for Social and Family Development Desmond Lee from the GRC, as well as controversies that involved its candidates in the days leading up to Nomination Day.

The PAP received 91,692 votes, while 31,191 votes went to RDU. Jurong GRC had 122,883 voters this year.

The final results did not stray far from an earlier sample count, which had shown 75 per cent of the votes going to the PAP.

The other candidates on the PAP slate were Senior Parliamentary Secretary for Trade and Industry and Foreign Affairs Tan Wu Meng, 45, backbencher and lawyer Rahayu Mahzam, 39, and newcomers Xie Yao Quan, 35, who is head of healthcare redesign at Alexandra Hospital, and Shawn Huang, 37, a director for enterprise development at Temasek International.

Mr Tharman, in a press conference following the announcement of the results, thanked Jurong GRC voters for their trust in the PAP team.

He said: "We pledge to work even harder, particularly in these difficult times, to help each and every family... and to build up Jurong as a strong community."

He also thanked the opposition RDU, which he said "fought a good fight".

The PAP team was up against the only team fielded in this election by RDU, which was registered on June 15.

The contest saw the return of three candidates who had stood in previous elections for other parties: Mr Ravi Philemon, 52, managing partner of a media company, educator and counsellor Michelle Lee, 43, as well as theatre director Alec Tok Kim Yam, 55. The first two were previously Progress Singapore Party members, while Mr Tok was from the Singapore Democratic Party.

They campaigned with entrepreneur and author Liyana Dhamirah, 33, and legal engineer Nicholas Tang, 28, who were both competing in an election for the first time.

A few weeks before the start of campaigning, the PAP slate for Jurong GRC became the subject of media attention after a candidate it had intended to field, Mr Ivan Lim, withdrew after facing criticisms on social media.

Dr Tan was also caught up in some controversy for an article he had penned that criticised Workers' Party chief Pritam Singh for supporting Singapore playwright Alfian Sa'at, saying Mr Alfian is not a "loving critic" of Singapore.

Mr Loo Xin Da, 42, a resident of Jurong GRC who works in the banking sector, said he hopes the PAP team does not take its strong showing in two consecutive elections for granted. "It will be interesting to see how the two newcomers will contribute to both the work here in my neighbourhood, as well as nationally, in Parliament."

Another resident, Mr Mafteem Farshad, 30, a financial adviser, said he was not surprised at the PAP team's big win.

"I never saw the other party RDU much. But also, SM Tharman has been a good MP here. He visits often and I feel his presence on the ground," he said.

"The Ivan Lim drama had me concerned because they replaced him so quickly. But I feel that they were taking care of the people here and I was impressed by it."

Ministers in Covid-19 task force lead GRC teams to victory in polls
But they win with lower vote margins compared with general election in 2015
By Chang Ai-Lien, The Straits Times, 11 Jul 2020

Ministers front-and-centre in the nation's battle against Covid-19 led their teams to victory in the general election, albeit with lower margins compared with the 2015 polls.

Multi-ministry task force co-chair Gan Kim Yong, 61, who led the PAP team contesting Chua Chu Kang GRC, garnered 58.64 per cent of the votes against the Progress Singapore Party (PSP), down sharply from its 76.89 per cent win in 2015.

Fellow task force co-chair Lawrence Wong, 47, who led the PAP team in Marsiling-Yew Tee GRC against the Singapore Democratic Party (SDP), won 63.18 per cent of the votes, a dip from 68.73 per cent in 2015.

Health Minister Gan and National Development Minister Wong have together been the face of the nation's fight against the coronavirus, directing a whole-of-government response and appearing together at least once a week to update the country on efforts to protect Singaporeans and curb the virus spread.

The People's Action Party won 15 out of 17 group representation constituencies, losing the newly formed Sengkang GRC and Aljunied GRC to the Workers' Party (WP).

The ruling party saw its vote share dip in all GRCs.

In Jalan Besar GRC, Manpower Minister Josephine Teo, 51, who moved from Bishan-Toa Payoh GRC, saw her team win against Peoples Voice with 65.37 per cent of the votes, compared with 67.73 per cent in the previous election.

She had been in the spotlight over living standards for foreign workers, after an explosion of Covid-19 cases in dormitories where they live.

Commenting on the trio's performance, Dr Elvin Ong, post-doctoral fellow at the School of Public Policy and Global Affairs, University of British Columbia, said: "I think, overall, they fared reasonably well even though the spotlight was on them."

Dr Ong, who is also overseas postdoctoral fellow with the Department of Political Science at the National University of Singapore, added: "They will have to work hard to maintain their lead in the next few years."

Minister for Trade and Industry Chan Chun Sing, 50, another central figure in efforts to contain the economic fallout of the virus, led his Tanjong Pagar team to victory against PSP, with 63.13 per cent of the votes, down from 77.71 per cent in 2015.

While PAP teams in constituencies such as Ang Mo Kio and Jurong scored comfortable wins exceeding 70 per cent of the votes, several others - including East Coast, Marine Parade and West Coast, failed to breach 60 per cent of the votes.

The PAP team in Marine Parade GRC, led by the Speaker of the 13th Parliament Tan Chuan-Jin, took home 57.76 per cent of the votes against the WP, lower than the 64.07 per cent achieved in the 2015 General Election.

Observers had anticipated a close fight in the five-member constituency after Emeritus Senior Minister Goh Chok Tong, 79, said last month he was leaving politics after 44 years.

Additional reporting by Prisca Ang

PAP wins 13 of 14 SMCs with new blood, familiar faces rising to the fore
Baptism of fire at single-member constituencies for its rookies and candidates previously from GRCs
By Jonathan Wong, The Straits Times, 11 Jul 2020

For half of the People's Action Party's (PAP) candidates contesting the 14 single-member constituencies (SMC), the 2020 General Election was a baptism of fire in different ways.

Political rookies - Mr Yip Hon Weng, former group chief of the Silver Generation Office under the Agency for Integrated Care, and Ms Gan Siow Huang, Singapore's first woman brigadier-general - were sent to contest in the Yio Chu Kang and Marymount constituencies, respectively.

Despite being untested in electoral battles, much less in solo ones, both triumphed against their respective Progress Singapore Party (PSP) opponents Kayla Low and Dr Ang Yong Guan.

This campaign, however, was not the first for their PAP colleagues Mr Henry Kwek, Mr Patrick Tay, Mr Melvin Yong, Mr Liang Eng Hwa and Ms Sun Xueling.

All were previously part of a group representation constituency (GRC), but it was their maiden experience being entrusted to defend the party's turf in single-member constituencies across the island.

All succeeded in winning their seats in Kebun Baru, Pioneer, Radin Mas, Bukit Panjang and Punggol West, in that order.

These results, coupled with victories by incumbents Ms Amy Khor in Hong Kah North, Ms Grace Fu in Yuhua, Mr Lim Biow Chuan in Mountbatten, Ms Tin Pei Ling in MacPherson, Mr Sitoh Yih Pin in Potong Pasir and Mr Murali Pillai in Bukit Batok meant the PAP captured 13 SMCs.

This dominance was tempered, though. In the 2015 election, in which the PAP won 12 of the 13 single seats, seven of the victories were secured with more than 70 per cent of the votes.

This year, that mark was crossed in only four SMCs - Radin Mas, where Mr Yong won 74 per cent; Mountbatten, where Mr Lim won 73.8 per cent; MacPherson, where Ms Tin won 71.7 per cent; and Yu-hua, where Ms Fu won 70.5 per cent.

Winning on his first attempt was not easy, said PAP's Mr Yip, 43, who beat fellow debutante Ms Low of PSP after getting 61 per cent of the 24,256 votes in Yio Chu Kang. Ms Low, also 43, is a chartered accountant and former prisons officer.

Mr Yip, whom observers believe has the potential to be a political office-holder, paid tribute to his volunteers, campaign team and Ms Low "for her determination and putting up a commendable fight". He thanked the residents of Yio Chu Kang and promised to give his best "to make a difference to those I am entrusted to care for".

This year's 14 SMCs is a record, an increase from the previous tally of 13 five years ago. Besides Yio Chu Kang, three - Kebun Baru, Marymount and Punggol West - are new.

Mr Kwek, who secured 63 per cent of the 21,096 votes in Kebun Baru against PSP' s Kumaran Pillai, is a familiar face, though.

Kebun Baru was folded into Ang Mo Kio GRC in 1991 and redrawn into Nee Soon GRC in 2015, with Mr Kwek in charge of it since then.

In the only three-cornered fight for a single seat in this election - unlike 2015, when there were three - PAP's Mr Tay emerged victorious in Pioneer with 62 per cent of the 18,507 votes, ahead of PSP's Mr Lim Cher Hong, who had 35.2 per cent.

Mr Cheang Peng Wah, the sole independent candidate, got 2.8 per cent, below the 12.5 per cent required to keep his $13,500 election deposit.

Mr Tay, 48, the MP for Boon Lay ward in West Coast GRC since 2015, was moved to Pioneer after four-term MP Cedric Foo stepped down. Mr Foo got 76.4 per cent of the votes in 2015 against National Solidarity Party's Elvin Ong.

Mr Tay said: "I will work on the feedback many residents have shared with me over the course of the campaign, be it on municipal issues or improvements on policies.

"My immediate focus is to help residents with jobs, and navigate through this crisis."

It was a similar sentiment shared by Ms Sun in Punggol West, where she garnered 61 per cent of the votes against Workers' Party's Ms Tan Chen Chen.

Ms Sun, 41, who has helmed the ward since her political debut in the Pasir Ris-Punggol GRC team in 2015, said: "I have worked hard in the past five years, but I recognise the next five years we need new solutions and collaborative efforts."

Additional reporting by Calvin Yang, Michelle Ng and Malavika Menon

PSP's West Coast team to be offered two NCMP seats as 'best losers'
By Charmaine Ng, The Straits Times, 11 Jul 2020

Two Progress Singapore Party (PSP) candidates in West Coast GRC will be offered seats in Parliament as Non-Constituency MPs (NCMPs), as the "best losers" of the 2020 General Election.

The five-member team lost the GRC to the PAP team led by Minister for Communications and Information S. Iswaran and Minister for Social and Family Development Desmond Lee with the smallest margin of 3.38 percentage points.

The PAP team retained the GRC with 51.69 per cent of the vote, while the PSP team secured 48.31 per cent of the vote.

The PSP team in West Coast GRC comprises Dr Tan Cheng Bock, Ms Hazel Poa, Mr Leong Mun Wai, Mr Jeffrey Khoo and Mr Nadarajah Loganathan.

However, Dr Tan had earlier said during the campaign period that he would decline an NCMP seat if he was offered one, although other party members could take it up if they wished.

Meanwhile, the Workers' Party retained the five-member Aljunied GRC and single-seat constituency Hougang, and won four-member Sengkang GRC - totalling 10 elected WP MPs.

To ensure that the new Parliament will have at least 12 opposition MPs, two NCMP seats will be offered to the "best losers" of GE2020.

The maximum number of NCMPs was increased from nine to 12 after amendments to the Constitution were made in 2016, which also gave NCMPs the same voting rights as elected MPs.

Under the scheme, which was introduced in 1984, the losing opposition candidates with the highest percentage of votes will be offered seats in Parliament, should the number of opposition candidates elected fall short of the minimum number.

Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong had earlier said during campaigning that the expanded NCMP scheme will guarantee a "significant opposition presence" in Parliament, even if the PAP wins all the seats.

He also noted that the NCMPs would have the same rights and privileges as elected MPs in Parliament.

As such, PM Lee said, Singaporeans should not vote for "compromise candidates" that would weaken the national team.

The expanded NCMP scheme was also cited by the PAP's Indranee Rajah, Minister in the Prime Minister's Office and Second Minister for Finance and Education, to rebut WP's Jamus Lim, who had urged voters to vote for his party and deny the PAP a "blank cheque" during a televised debate on July 1.

Ms Indranee had said: "The PAP will never have a blank cheque, because no matter what happens, the Constitution guarantees at least 12 opposition seats at the minimum."

GE2020 results: As the opposition seizes another GRC, it's time to heal and reinvent
By Grace Ho, Senior Political Correspondent, The Straits Times, 11 Jul 2020

Amid the ongoing pandemic, the question as Singaporeans headed to the polls was this: Would they prioritise bread-and-butter issues in a flight to safety and leadership?

In the end, the flight turned out to be more of a shuffle. And voters - especially younger ones - sent a strong signal that they wanted not just bread and butter, but more chefs to butter their toast.

The ruling People's Action Party (PAP) won 61.24 per cent of valid votes cast, down from 69.9 per cent in 2015, a swing of almost 9 percentage points. It secured 83 of 93 seats, down from 83 out of 89 seats in 2015.

The opposition Workers' Party (WP) not only strengthened its hold over Aljunied GRC and Hougang SMC, but also added another feather to its cap in the form of Sengkang GRC with a comfortable 4.26-point lead. The Progress Singapore Party (PSP) put up a strong fight in West Coast GRC, losing to the PAP by fewer than 4 percentage points.

Yet the outcome of the election was not entirely unpredictable. Online and among younger voters, there had been palpable buzz over the quality of the opposition slate this year and the eloquence of some of their candidates.

In the first election campaign waged mainly online, the opposition's proposed policy alternatives received ample airtime, thanks to a constant stream of online dialogues and e-rallies. Their campaign slogans - such as the WP's Make Your Vote Count - sought to focus Singaporeans' minds on the need for elected representation in Parliament to serve as an effective check and balance.

Not only did these efforts pay off, but they also resonated with younger voters. In Sengkang GRC, where more than 60 per cent of residents are aged below 45, and more than one in 20 is younger than five - both above the national rates - the WP took home 52.13 per cent of the vote share against the PAP team led by labour chief and Minister in the Prime Minister's Office Ng Chee Meng.

Aljunied, the only opposition-held GRC up till then, also saw a spike in the WP's vote share by almost 10 percentage points from 2015, when a razor-thin margin had forced a recount. Its lead in neighbouring stronghold Hougang SMC also widened significantly.

There were essentially two competing narratives going into the election: The PAP's narrative was "vote for who can protect your lives, jobs and future", while the opposition's narrative was "we need an opposition as a check and balance".

All over Singapore, as the results from sample counts started streaming in after 10pm - and as they were confirmed by actual vote counts in the wee hours of this morning - it became clear which way Singaporeans were leaning.

With no hard data, one can only offer several possibilities as to why the results turned out this way.

First, the economy. With the economy slated to shrink by up to 7 per cent this year, one would have expected the PAP - which has always fared well in crises - to strengthen its position.

But in a sign of just how bad the outlook is - and how much further the national mood could sour - Singaporeans who lost their jobs, are in the process of losing them, or have suffered pay cuts may be unhappy about stumping for the incumbent, despite the massive fiscal firepower it unleashed across four Budgets and to the tune of $93 billion in Covid-19 support.

Second, and relatedly, the pandemic. The month-long circuit breaker and its extension shuttered businesses and led to job losses, some of which may never return.

Anecdotally, official instructions had initially caused confusion among businesses which did not know if they were allowed to remain open. The surge in infected cases in foreign workers' dormitories also reopened issues that non-governmental organisations had flagged for years, such as overcrowding and unsanitary living conditions.

How much of this - as well as a debate over whether officials had taken the need for mask-wearing seriously enough - influenced public opinion on the Government's handling of Covid-19 remains cloudy.

Third, voters did not wholly agree with the PAP's single-party definition of a strong mandate. A pre-election series of national broadcasts, right up to Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong's closing rally on the night before Cooling-off Day, drove home the high stakes involved and why the PAP is the best party to steer the country through the crisis.

The party also argued that there would be at least 12 opposition MPs in Parliament due to the Non-Constituency MP scheme, and that NCMPs have voting rights.

But Singaporeans did not bite, signalling that they wanted more elected opposition representatives - a sentiment captured by WP's Jamus Lim, who had said that the WP was not trying to deny the PAP a strong mandate.

"What we're trying to deny them is a blank cheque," he said.

Fourth, controversy over opposition candidates may have helped raise their profiles and causes. WP's candidate in Sengkang, Ms Raeesah Khan, was the subject of a police probe over her social media comments. But the context in which those comments were made - and public knowledge of her activist background - seemed to successfully counter allegations that she had promoted "enmity between different groups on grounds of religion or race".

On the other hand, PAP new face Ivan Lim, who withdrew from the contest amid online criticism of his character and conduct, attracted little public sympathy.

But it is worth noting that this morning's result still puts 83 out of 93 seats in Parliament firmly in the hands of the ruling party. Faced with an ongoing pandemic and economic recession, Singaporeans still strongly back the incumbent as it embarks on the difficult task of repairing and restructuring a damaged economy.

At the same time, the capture of another GRC by the WP can be read as a desire for more robust debate and opposition representation in Parliament by a maturing electorate. It has chosen not just any kind of opposition representation - but a moderate, rational one in the form of the WP, which is exactly the kind of image the party has tried to cultivate as it refrained from hitting out at the Government's handling of Covid-19, both before and during the hustings.

Even as both sides take stock today, a few things could have been finessed.

First, candidates often seemed to be talking at cross purposes during live debates, partly due to limited airtime on official channels.

Key arguments - as interesting as they were - had to be compressed into 11/2-to 41/2-minute soundbites, some of which descended into both sides accusing each other of peddling in falsehoods.

Singapore Democratic Party (SDP) chief Chee Soon Juan claimed that Deputy Prime Minister Heng Swee Keat had, at a forum, toyed with the idea of raising the population to 10 million by bringing in more foreigners, which was met with strong rebuttals from Mr Heng and the PAP as misperceptions about the matter continued to swirl on social media.

The campaign was mired in distractions and controversy, from a flurry of police reports over everyone from WP's Ms Raeesah to social media influencer Xiaxue to leaked audio clips involving Trade and Industry Minister Chan Chun Sing.

Second, more could have been done to probe the assumptions behind certain policy proposals.

When the SDP suggested a wealth tax or to reimpose estate duties, why did it not address the downsides which the Government had already spoken of?

One can imagine seasoned trade negotiators raising their eyebrows when the PSP said it wanted to review free trade agreements such as the Comprehensive Economic Cooperation Agreement without giving details, especially when reviewing even a single trade pact can have serious implications for all the others.

When the PAP said it is not prudent to raise the Net Investment Returns Contribution cap above 50 per cent, is this a hard position or something up for reconsideration further down the road? What other solutions does it have in mind to deal with fiscal pressures, in addition to the GST hike?

There was regrettably little time to address these issues. But even if voters accept the bite-size answers given this time round, these questions are not going to go away any time soon - and will likely resurface before long.

Third, as with any electoral contest, it was sometimes hard to resist turning one's opponents into cardboard caricatures.

While it is easy to label opposition parties that advocate more social spending as piggy bank-raiding villains, they tap a deep vein of anxiety and pain felt by many Singaporeans.

Instead of depicting the PAP as being hyper-capitalist, rigid and uncaring, maybe the opposition needed to acknowledge that it has in fact been responsive - and focus on how they, the opposition, can build on that.

This morning's result has clearly exposed the wounds in the nation's psyche - both fresh and old, that the PAP will need to salve as it seeks to unite Singaporeans and tide them over this difficult period.

Across the world, Covid-19 has catalysed important qualitative changes in the way policymakers manage the economy - from the role of the state and the extent of its involvement, to the criteria used to judge policy success or failure.

Already, this year's Budget was unprecedented for a Government often criticised as being tight-fisted, with outright cash transfers, payouts for the self-employed and wage subsidies to help firms retain workers.

In a world where governments are ripping up the rule book to keep their countries thriving, now, more than ever, fresh approaches are needed.

And yesterday, Singaporeans said loudly and clearly that they want to see more of these fresh approaches, from more parties.

WP's message of constructive politics wins over voters
By Tham Yuen-C, Senior Political Correspondent, The Straits Times, 11 Jul 2020

In his first electoral outing as party chief, Workers' Party (WP) secretary-general Pritam Singh seemed to have taken a conservative approach.

The party seemed content to defend its home turf of Hougang SMC and Aljunied GRC, as it fielded fewer candidates and contested just six constituencies, compared with 10 in 2015.

It was to have been a night of no alarms and no surprises.

But instead, the WP grabbed Sengkang GRC from the People's Action Party (PAP) with 52.13 per cent of the votes. In the process, it took down Minister in the Prime Minister's Office and labour chief Ng Chee Meng and office-holders Lam Pin Min and Amrin Amin with a team made up of only one experienced candidate and three new faces.

The opposition party also retained Hougang and Aljunied with comfortable margins, improving on their 2015 showing.

The results would likely have exceeded the party's own expectations given the uncertainties at the start.

Three of the party's six incumbent MPs, including WP icon Low Thia Khiang, did not contest the 2020 polls.

It was also thrown a curve ball on Nomination Day when Deputy Prime Minister Heng Swee Keat was moved from Tampines GRC to defend East Coast GRC for the PAP.

This move appeared to have closed off the party's chances for winning another GRC in the near term. It had been slowly making inroads in East Coast since 2006, but would now have to look elsewhere.

Perhaps already pre-empting this, since it was widely expected that the ruling party would send a heavyweight to defend East Coast, the WP did not field its next best team there. Instead, it sent its next best candidates to different constituencies, with lawyer He Ting Ru, a popular candidate in the 2015 General Election, sent to the new Sengkang GRC.

Along with economist Jamus Lim, equity analyst Louis Chua and social activist Raeesah Khan - the party's most talked about new faces - this became widely considered as the WP's B team.

The strategy appears to have paid off, with all of the WP's teams turning in better results this time round compared with 2015.

The party was stopped in East Coast GRC, but not quite in the way most had expected, with its team garnering 46.59 per cent of the votes.

In Marine Parade, the WP received 42.24 per cent of the votes, and even in the new Punggol West SMC, it received 39.03 per cent.

But it was in Sengkang that the party pulled off the biggest upset.

Fielding Dr Lim in the constituency turned out to be a masterstroke.

Even before the election, his qualifications had created a buzz online. After plaudits poured in for his performance in a televised debate, the quartet's popularity and profile grew.

The constituency's population also played to the party's advantage. More than 60 per cent of Sengkang GRC residents are aged below 45, larger than the national average.

That the WP candidates in Sengkang ranged in ages from 26 to 44 also made it easier for young voters to identify with them.

It seemed the team could do no wrong. Even after it was revealed that police reports had been made against Ms Raeesah, in relation to social media comments she had made in the past alleging discrimination by Singapore's law enforcement authorities, the party managed to avert an all-out crisis. It immediately called a press conference where Ms Raeesah, head bowed, apologised for her "insensitive" and "improper" remarks.

As it turned out, the episode might have gained the team more support.

While the Sengkang win was a surprise, the party's overall showing indicates it was no fluke.

When the party lost Punggol East SMC and barely retained Aljunied GRC in 2015, many took it as a sign that there was nothing inevitable about the drift towards the opposition as Singapore matures.

But in the face of this morning's results, it is perhaps time to reassess this perspective.

That the WP was able to achieve such a vote share, amid a pandemic which typically sends voters into the arms of the PAP in a flight to safety, is the best indication that it may have finally gone beyond its hardcore of supporters to win over some of those in the middle.

And if it was not clear before whether voters had bought into its argument of constructive politics, its showing this time perhaps confirms that it has pitched its message just right.

While stressing that it would not needle or needlessly obstruct the PAP in Parliament, it sought to convince voters that a diversity of voices was what Singapore needed.

Amid a mood kept subdued by the pandemic, the party also took the chance to burnish its moderate image - successfully walking the line between a call for change and not rocking the sampan that is Singapore.

If Mr Singh can capitalise on the momentum gained from the polls to build up the WP, he may take his party much further than his predecessors.

A result that could please voters from both sides
By Chua Mui Hoong, Opinion Editor, The Straits Times, 11 Jul 2020

General Election 2020 will go down as the election with a result that pleased voters on both sides of the political spectrum.

Supporters of the People's Action Party (PAP) can take comfort that the party chalked up a respectable 61.2 per cent of valid votes cast, which is not bad for an election it was criticised for holding in the middle of a pandemic as anxieties rose over health and a looming recession.

It held on to 83 of 93 seats in Parliament - a landslide by any global measure. Optimists among PAP supporters can claim this result as a win for its core policies and as strong support for its political renewal process, with a fourth-generation or 4G group of leaders in charge of both pandemic response and the election.

Opposition supporters will be elated at the Workers' Party's (WP) breakthrough win in Sengkang GRC, adding to Aljunied GRC and Hougang, bringing from six to 10 the number of WP MPs in Parliament. The WP's share of votes among the seats it contested also went up - from 39.8 per cent to 50.5 per cent, cementing its position as the leading opposition party.

The WP win in Sengkang GRC this election is the most significant development in Singapore politics since 1991, when the opposition broke the PAP monopoly to win four single seats; and 2011, when the WP won its first group representation constituency, Aljunied.

Sengkang GRC is the bellwether of the future, and a WP win now suggests it is onto a winning formula to woo voters. It has taken nearly 30 years - since 1991 when Mr Low Thia Khiang won Hougang and entered Parliament on the WP ticket - but finally Singapore has the outline of a two-party system in place.

The WP win in 2020 actually has its roots in 2013, when a fresh-faced unknown, Ms Lee Li Lian, won the seat for the WP in a by-election after the PAP incumbent resigned over a personal indiscretion.

In an analysis after Ms Lee won the election, I wrote: "Is Punggol East an aberration or the harbinger of things to come?

"I think it is the latter. Punggol East has a demographic profile of the future: Voters are younger and better off than the national average. It is solidly middle class. Future elections will be full of people who think and vote like those at Punggol East."

The PAP later sent its seasoned warhorse Charles Chong to win back the seat in the 2015 General Election with 51.8 per cent. Punggol East was then absorbed into the new Sengkang GRC this election.

The WP's win in Sengkang GRC and its stronger showing in Aljunied GRC (from about 51 per cent to 59.9 per cent) show clearly that voters are rewarding it for fielding a slate of better qualified, more eloquent candidates under new chief Pritam Singh.

Mr Singh is running his first election campaign as party chief, having taken over from the Chinese-educated Mr Low only in 2018. Mr Low retired this election, together with two other Chinese-speaking MPs, Mr Png Eng Huat and Mr Chen Show Mao. Mr Singh has now successfully broadened the party's appeal beyond its traditional Mandarin-speaking heartland voters, to younger, middle class, English-speaking voters.

The Sengkang GRC team from WP includes Dr Jamus Lim, an economics professor who can out-debate PAP ministers; Ms He Ting Ru, a Cambridge graduate and laywer; and Ms Raeesah Khan, an activist with "woke" views on race and privilege that unsettle some older Singaporeans but resonate with other millennials. Mr Louis Chua, an equity research analyst, rounds up the quartet. Voters were prepared to give this new team a chance, even if it meant throwing out an all-male PAP team consisting of former education minister-turned-labour chief Ng Chee Meng, a senior minister of state, a senior parliamentary secretary and a lawyer.

Has Mr Singh come up with a winning formula to win over younger voters, offering candidates with more diverse backgrounds and views?

If so, the PAP has to watch its eastern flank carefully, as East Coast GRC managed just 53.4 per cent of the votes, even after Deputy Prime Minister Heng Swee Keat was moved there to buttress the team. Marine Parade GRC, adjacent to it, remained in PAP hands but with a reduced margin - from 64.1 per cent to 57.8 per cent.

The WP under Mr Singh is bringing Singapore into the era of truly contested politics and policies.

While past opposition MPs like Mr Low and Mr Chiam See Tong were tenacious individuals who never gave up the fight to keep the opposition flame alive, using the art of the combative rebuttal to good effect, and pointing out loopholes in thinking, they did not offer a serious, comprehensive policy alternative to the PAP's.

In contrast, the WP under Mr Singh does not seek to "needle the PAP". Instead, the WP campaigned on its policy proposals that offer more social safety nets. The PAP even dignified the WP manifesto by calling its proposals "PAP-lite".

As the active diet of televised debates, e-rallies, talk shows and webinars throughout the campaign showed, Singaporeans are ready, even hungry, to see policy ideas scrutinised and contested.

While few Singaporeans today will think the WP is ready to form an alternative government, its showing in GE2020 indicates it is well on its way to fulfil its goal to deny the PAP a super majority (two-thirds of seats). Success begets success: It took four elections for the WP to go from one single seat to a GRC; and just two more elections to win a second GRC. If it gets more good candidates, it can well win over two marginal GRCs at the next election.

The other opposition parties' performance paled in comparison although the Progress Singapore Party (PSP) nearly caused an upset in West Coast GRC. Its team there, led by former PAP MP Tan Cheng Bock, knocked the PAP's vote share there down by nearly 27 percentage points, from 78.6 per cent to 51.7 per cent. The PSP won 40.9 per cent of votes in constituencies it contested, making it the second top-performing opposition party after the WP. In West Coast GRC, it got 48.3 per cent of the votes, making the team the "best losers" in the election, which means two candidates can take up two seats as Non-Constituency MPs in Parliament.

What does GE2020 mean for politics in Singapore?

First, it shows that a two-party system in its infancy is taking shape, as the WP now has the clout to attract good candidates, run a good campaign and put up alternative policy proposals. It will be tested in town council and constituency management next.

Second, the results show that work on the ground is essential for the PAP to keep voter support. Hard-working and visible MPs in single seats, like MacPherson's Ms Tin Pei Ling, Radin Mas' Mr Melvin Yong and Mountbatten's Mr Lim Biow Chuan, all managed over 70 per cent of votes.

In fact, the strong showing by established PAP MPs in single seats and the risk of losing ministerial candidates in a GRC may lead to a rethink or scaling down of the number of GRCs and the return of more single seats which guarantee a more equal fight. This would please many voters who are upset at the way new, unknown PAP candidates get into Parliament on the "coat-tails" of senior, established PAP ministers and are then given highly paid office-holder positions.

Third, the success of the WP team in Sengkang GRC will put pressure on the PAP to change in certain directions.

If 2011 forced the PAP to move left towards more income redistribution, I think GE2020 will be a wake-up call for the PAP to refresh its appeal to younger voters.

The PAP does not take any loss sitting down and the slip of 8.7 percentage points in support from 69.9 per cent in 2015, plus the loss of four more seats in a GRC, will certainly cause it much soul-searching.

In particular, the PAP may realise it needs to be more attentive to millennial voters and their interests, and be more willing to have difficult dialogues such as on inequality and low-wage workers; and on race and discrimination.

This has been an unusual election - held in a pandemic and recession, full of virtual e-rallies that appeal to voters rationally, devoid of emotional rallies said to favour the opposition. The campaign has been a battle for the mind and heart of the middle-ground voter: the voter who wants a PAP government, but also wants a stronger opposition.

The parties have got exactly what they wanted: a strong mandate for the PAP in this crisis period, and a stronger opposition in Parliament to broaden policy choices to gird Singapore for the future.

What's next? Voters will hold both to their promise: They want to see the WP advocate for its policies; but more importantly, they will want to see the PAP Government uphold its pledge of building a Singapore Together movement that is inclusive, that listens to citizens, and wants them as co-creators of the future.

GE2020: Younger voters make their mark in polls
Analysts say results show that such people want more than just the emphasis on jobs
By Irene Tham and Prisca Ang, The Straits Times, 11 Jul 2020

The ruling party emphasised jobs and economic security in this general election, but the results showed that voters, particularly younger voters, wanted more, said political observers.

Their unexpected swing against the People's Action Party (PAP) caused its overall vote share to shrink to 61.24 per cent, down from 69.9 per cent in the 2015 General Election.

In contrast, the Workers' Party (WP) not only retained its Aljunied GRC and Hougang SMC with higher margins than in 2015, it also claimed the opposition's second GRC - the new Sengkang GRC introduced in this election.

The WP's stronger performance proves that the looming economic downturn due to an ongoing Covid-19 pandemic does not necessarily lead to a flight to safety and votes for the incumbent, said political observers.

As National University of Singapore's political science don Bilveer Singh put it: "It is a night to be remembered...This is almost a repeat of 2011, when there is a national issue and there is an across the board shift against the ruling party."

Dr Elvin Ong, post-doctoral fellow at the School of Public Policy and Global Affairs, University of British Columbia, said that many people were basing the PAP's performance on the way its fourth-generation leaders managed the Covid-19 pandemic.

"The results show that many people were not satisfied with the way they managed the crisis," said Dr Ong, who is also overseas postdoctoral fellow with the Department of Political Science at the National University of Singapore.

"They might have (also) thought that the leaders dropped the ball in how they managed the situation in migrant worker dormitories."

The vast majority of the 43,000 infections in Singapore have been among workers living in dormitories. During campaigning, a few opposition candidates criticised some policy decisions, saying they were driven more by concerns over shortages and constraints rather than medical advice.

In a message to voters last week, WP secretary-general Pritam Singh pointed to the need for a "constructive opposition".

Voters heeded the call.

In one of the largest upsets of this election, a fresh-faced WP team claimed Sengkang GRC.

Associate Professor Alan Chong of the S. Rajaratnam School of International Studies said that the WP managed to appeal to younger voters in Sengkang GRC.

"They might have thought, 'The Government has promised a whole load of things to take us out of the Covid-19 storm, why not vote in the WP to ensure that they deliver?' " said Prof Chong.

Dr Felix Tan, associate lecturer at SIM Global Education, said that the opposition's message about sending more checks and balances, and more diversity of views in Parliament, resonated with voters.

He noted that a crop of younger, more educated and discerning voters are looking beyond bread and butter issues.

Dr Tan also said that this new crop of voters also resented one-sided policy making, citing examples such as the imminent goods and services tax (GST) increase and the 2016 amendment to the Singapore Constitution so that the 2017 presidential election was reserved for members of the Malay community.

"The WP's messages of 'no blank cheque as well as the possibility of an opposition wipeout probably resonated with voters in Aljunied and Sengkang. They were therefore convinced of voting for a credible, responsible opposition in Parliament," he added.

The University of British Columbia's Dr Ong added: "A significant proportion are looking for more than just jobs, they are also looking for other factors such as a more inclusive style of politics."

At the 2011 polls, the PAP had its worst electoral showing, with 60.1 per cent of the overall vote.

Many declared the event a watershed moment or the "new normal" in Singapore politics - with the rising WP providing an alternative to the PAP in what could be a two-party system.

But at the 2015 General Election, the pendulum swung back in favour of the PAP, which won a vote share of 69.9 per cent. The result served as a reminder that there is no sure thing in politics, said analysts.

S. Rajaratnam School of International Studies' Dr Chong said that the results of GE 2020, however, will be "a significant shot in the arm for the WP going into the next GE".

That being said, pragmatic Singaporean voters are still concerned about dollars and cents, and jobs.

"The opposition will still continue to face an uphill climb," he said.

Former Nominated MP and political observer Zulkifli Baharudin agreed. "For the opposition to create something, they have to establish themselves on the ground for the next five years and prove themselves," he said.

GE2020: Voting hours extended due to long queues at some places
ELD apologises for situation; opposition parties criticise move to extend hours
By Timothy Goh and  Low Lin Fhoong, The Straits Times, 11 Jul 2020

The polls were kept open for two more hours last night till 10pm so that voters caught in long queues at a number of polling stations could cast their votes.

The Elections Department (ELD) announced the extension - believed to be the first time this has happened - at around 7pm. It noted that although the queue situation across most stations had improved, "a small number" continued to see long queues.

ELD had earlier apologised for "longer than usual" queues at polling stations during the day, and attributed these to a combination of voters turning up to vote outside their assigned time bands, as well as measures put in place to ensure safe voting during the pandemic.

Opposition parties criticised the move to extend polling hours.

Progress Singapore Party (PSP) chief Tan Cheng Bock said the move was "highly irregular"and "compromised the integrity of the process".

"This is a direct result of bad planning and incessant urge to rush an election during the (Covid-19) period. This underscores the disregard for public health, as well as our democratic processes," Dr Tan said.

He added that after studying the Parliamentary Elections Act, his party is of the view that the Returning Officer has no power to extend polling hours, especially on the day itself after polling starts.

A notice of the extension of polling hours was published on the government gazette at 7.10pm.

The Singapore Democratic Party (SDP) called the extension "highly irregular" and unprecedented.

Meanwhile, Singapore People's Party (SPP) secretary-general Steve Chia expressed concern that the extension coincided with the special voting hour for those who are unwell or on stay-home notice.

He added that SPP had told its polling agents to stay away from the centres, and return after the close of voting at 10pm to witness the sealing of the ballot boxes.

A special voting hour of 7pm to 8pm had initially been set aside for those on stay-home notice, on medical leave due to acute respiratory infection, or who had a fever, to cast their votes.

ELD said that in view of the extended hours, election officials would ask such voters at stations that still had long queues to identify themselves.

These voters would be isolated in a separate holding area, in order to prevent them from mixing with other voters. Once the queue had cleared, election officials would then arrange for them to vote.

ELD also said that the extended hours - which did not apply to stations in designated stay-home notice facilities - did not affect polling and counting procedures.

It added that parties and candidates could continue to exercise their rights and obligations in ensuring a fair and open election, including witnessing the sealing of ballot boxes and observing the counting process.

Voter Raymond Francis, 50, called the extended voting hours "a godsend". He and his wife were originally given the time band of 4pm to 6pm to vote at Newton, but saw a line of more than a hundred people when they got there at 4pm.

"We felt it was quite crowded and didn't want to queue under such conditions under the heat, and we were worried about social distancing as well," he said.

After hearing about the extended voting hours, they decided to come back only at 8.15pm. Conditions then were much better, he said.

Over at Palm View Primary School, Madam Lim Swee Geok, 54, voted at 8.30pm. She had tried to vote three times earlier in the day - at 11am, 5pm and 6.30pm - when queues were long, with more than 200 estimated to be in line.

Madam Lim said the extended voting hours were good, but that the earlier queues were "very long" and she had gone home instead of waiting as she had not been feeling well.

"I almost didn't want to vote - this is the first time that voting has been so difficult and so tiring," said the Sengkang GRC resident.

Political scientist Bilveer Singh said that while the extension may have been unprecedented, it was the right thing to do.

"Rather than cutting it off and stopping people from voting, which will be more damaging, I'd rather extend it so that everyone is able to cast their vote and then we deal with whatever the consequences after that. I think what's most important is that everybody's voice needs to be heard," he said.

Additional reporting by Fabian Koh, Tee Zhuo, Ling Chang Hong and Kok Yufeng


Singapore GE2020: A watershed election and new normal?
Analysts break down the hows and whys, and the underlying message from voters
By Grace Ho and Yuen Sin, The Sunday Times, 12 Jul 2020

Singaporeans woke up on Saturday morning to a familiar headline - that the People's Action Party (PAP) was back in government - but also to a new normal, of an entrenched opposition party in Parliament and a clear shift in what voters expect of politics in Singapore.

The PAP returned to power with 83 of 93 seats in the July 10 polls, a general election held amid the Covid-19 pandemic and the economic mayhem it has caused.

The flight to safety by voters, seen clearly in the 2001 General Election held soon after the Sept 11 attacks in the United States, did not materialise despite the predictions of pundits.

Voters instead sent a different signal. Despite the challenges, or because of them, they want more alternative voices in Parliament. For many voters, one alternative voice they want belongs to the Workers' Party (WP).

Even with the retirement of long-time opposition MP Low Thia Khiang ahead of the election, the party retained Aljunied GRC and Hougang with bigger margins of victory. But it also snared the newly-formed Sengkang GRC.

Voters picked fresh faces over the labour chief, a senior minister of state, and a senior parliamentary secretary.

Former Nominated MP and political observer Zulkifli Baharudin says the results demonstrate that the WP has entrenched itself as Singaporeans' preferred opposition party.

He adds that the move by Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong to recognise WP chief Pritam Singh as the Leader of the Opposition, and provide him with the appropriate staff and resources, is significant as it marks a new phase in Singapore politics.

The Leader of the Opposition is the leader of the largest minority party which is able and prepared to assume office, in the event the Government resigns.

WP did not just win two GRCs and an SMC, it was also the cause of jangled nerves in Marine Parade and East Coast GRCs, losing narrowly with 42.24 per cent and 46.59 per cent of the votes respectively.


Dr Elvin Ong, a post-doctoral fellow at the University of British Columbia's School of Public Policy and Global Affairs, says the party's proposals resonated with voters.

Speaking at a post-GE webinar organised by yesterday, Dr Ong said the ruling party, for instance, has consistently maintained that the Progressive Wage Model, which is currently mandatory in a few sectors, works for Singapore. is a site maintained by a group of Singaporean academics.

But the WP is advocating a national minimum wage, saying it ensures a baseline level of income for all.

"A lot of people saw that as an important thing because that is a signal of the inherent dignity of labour in Singapore," says Dr Ong.

Mr Singh's argument that the Government is more responsive to people's concerns when it loses elected seats appears to have struck a chord with voters as well, as did the party's message of constructive politics and the plea to voters not to hand the ruling party a "blank cheque" to shape policy at will.

Maybank Kim Eng senior economist Chua Hak Bin says the voters may have also seen candidates from WP and the Progress Singapore Party (PSP) - which lost narrowly in West Coast GRC - as credible alternatives, on account of their previous careers and academic credentials.

Economist Jamus Lim, for example, holds multiple degrees from the likes of Harvard University and the London School of Economics. Dr Lim is a member of the WP's Sengkang GRC team.

But there was also a shift in priorities for voters, from basic needs towards broader social aspirations, says National University of Singapore Business School Associate Professor Lawrence Loh.

"The voter response across the board seems to point to cumulative concerns that have been factored into individual decisions," he adds, citing public perception - rightly or wrongly - of the reserved Presidential election in 2017 and the Protection from Online Falsehoods and Manipulation Act (Pofma) as examples of moves by the PAP to secure a political advantage.

This response, he notes, translated into a desire to see diversity in Parliament as an important part of good governance - a "sophisticated and calibrated" outcome that increases opposition representation, while placing power squarely in the PAP's hands.


With its overall vote share of 61.24 per cent, the PAP has seen an almost 9 percentage point drop from the 2015 General Election. The result is closer to its performance in 2011, when the mood on the ground was made sour by housing shortages and transport disruptions.

Former PAP MP Hong Hai, a Nanyang Technological University (NTU) Adjunct Professor, says the 8.7-point swing is "in the natural order of things" as Singapore society evolves, with millennials and Generation Z voters wanting a greater contest of ideas and less paternalism. He adds that the party will have to change its governing paradigm to cope with "credible and well-meaning" alternative parties like the WP.

SIM Global Education associate lecturer Felix Tan says there may have been a rise in voter dissatisfaction as well, with the PAP's strategies and tactics in this election.

Analysts cite the opinion piece by PAP's Dr Tan Wu Meng, Senior Parliamentary Secretary for Trade and Industry and Foreign Affairs and member of the winning Jurong GRC team. The article, published on the PAP's website on June 19, had questioned Mr Singh's support of poet and playwright Alfian Sa'at.

There was also the matter of police reports against WP's Ms Raeesah Khan, a member of the Sengkang GRC team, over remarks made in two Facebook posts in which the 26-year-old allegedly promoted "enmity between different groups on grounds of religion or race".

Following the police reports, the PAP issued a statement questioning why the WP still sees her as being worthy of consideration as an MP.

Associate Professor Terence Lee, who researches Singapore media and politics at Murdoch University, says the ruling party overplayed its hand with the incident, describing Ms Raeesah's comments as "unpleasant, perhaps rude or insensitive, but they were not clear-cut discriminatory".

The social activist was quick to apologise, with Mr Singh explaining that she comes from a generation that has "completely grown up on social media".

At the webinar yesterday, NUS adjunct law professor Kevin Tan separately highlighted the use of Pofma against remarks made by Singapore Democratic Party chairman, Professor Paul Tambyah.

He described it as belonging to a set of tactics from the "old PAP playbook", a strategy that no longer goes down well with current voters.

The Government had on July 5 flagged falsehoods in Prof Tambyah's claims over Covid-19 testing for foreign workers.


Analysts are divided on whether the election was a referendum on the 4G leaders, pointing out that there were larger factors at play.

While Deputy Prime Minister Heng Swee Keat's team won East Coast GRC with just 53.41 per cent of the votes cast, Singapore Management University (SMU) law don Eugene Tan notes that had the PAP not fielded Mr Heng there, the constituency may well have fallen to the WP.

"In an election where there was a distinct shift from the status quo, even a PAP slate anchored by the PM-in-waiting was not spared," he says. But the results suggest the 4G leaders have to win over the ground, as they take over from the 3G in the next 18 to 24 months, adds Associate Professor Tan.

"They will need to inspire confidence, renew trust and build bonds with the people after a bruising GE."

Dr Walid Jumblatt Abdullah, assistant professor at NTU's School of Social Sciences, says the election results are a signal to the 4G leaders "that voters are not exactly comfortable with what the PAP is doing - maybe rushing the elections, the use of Pofma against its opponents, or even going hard on the opposition during hustings".

The underlying message from voters is that the PAP should focus on how it governs, says SMU's Prof Tan. "It's not merely about governing well, which is expected, but how to govern in a manner that takes in Singaporeans' concerns in both substance and form," he adds.

Voters, he explains, now place a premium on a government that is empathetic to people's concerns, which include pushing for a more fair and equitable society.

Speaking to the media yesterday at Block 107 Yishun Ring Road before he and his Nee Soon GRC team headed out to thank residents for their support, Law and Home Affairs Minister K. Shanmugam said there are "clearly messages that voters are sending us", and it will be wrong if the PAP does not understand these messages."I think it requires a lot of soul searching and reflection," he added.'

Vote signals a desire for change, but not in a hurry
The PAP needs to re-examine some previous assumptions on issues such as leadership, young voters and race
By Han Fook Kwang, Editor-at-Large, The Sunday Times, 12 Jul 2020

GE2020 was a good result for Singapore. It showed a sophisticated and mature electorate which returned the ruling party to power but with a clear message that it had issues with some of its policies and style of government.

Voters had an equally strong point to make to the opposition: We hear you about not giving the Government a blank cheque but you have to work very hard to prove that you are up to the task.

It was a hard slog for many of the opposition parties and their candidates as it has always been battling the People's Action Party. GE2020 showed it still is but that it is possible to make some headway.

The key to the opposition's success?

Surprise, surprise, it is exactly the same as the PAP's: Sound leadership at the top with a clear plan on how to grow and strengthen the party.

The Workers' Party, with Mr Pritam Singh helming it for the first time, made several key moves that proved decisive.

It focused on its stomping ground in the east, with fewer candidates than in the last general election with a younger line-up than the other parties and campaigned single-mindedly to deny the PAP a clean sweep.

It could have gone seriously wrong for the party forced to field fresh faces in Aljunied GRC with the retirement of its former chief Low Thia Khiang, and with Deputy Prime Minister Heng Swee Keat's surprise move to East Coast GRC.

But the WP did not allow these to disrupt its campaign plan and messaging.

Sticking close to the script required firm leadership at the top and discipline from party members on the ground.

These two qualities were evident too in how it handled the controversy over Ms Raeesah Khan's Facebook postings, nipping the problem in the bud quickly and unambiguously.

The Progress Singapore Party (PSP), which performed creditably as a new party despite not winning a single seat, would do well to follow the WP's example if it wants to be as successful.

It was a good result for Singapore because no one knows how the political landscape will change with a younger electorate who want a greater say in how the country is run: Will it be a gradual and stable transition to a more pluralistic polity or a precipitous change to an uncertain future?

With the WP winning just one more GRC and the other parties returning empty-handed, Singaporeans voted for slow and steady change.

That's a resounding vote for a stable Singapore.

Will it always be like this?

It depends on how the ruling party deals with several issues which GE2020 highlighted.

There are three.

First, and most important, is the ongoing transition to the 4G leadership.

This GE was meant to be a political test of their readiness to take over. If the PAP had scored an overwhelming win similar to what it achieved in 2015, it would have proclaimed the transition a success and proceeded as planned.

How will the party assess leadership succession now, faced with a nationwide 8.7 percentage point swing against it?

I believe it should review its decision, and not just because of GE2020.

The selection of DPM Heng to succeed PM Lee Hsien Loong was made by his 4G colleagues prior to the Covid-19 pandemic.

But the world has changed since and the challenges that Singapore faces now and for some time to come have become more severe and uncertain.

Will the new circumstances require a different leader to rally and mobilise the people?

The ruling party should review the issue and obtain a fresh mandate from its members.

Indeed, many observers pointed out correctly that PM Lee, in his national broadcast on June 7, had hinted that he and his 3G colleagues might stay on longer than planned to see Singapore through the crisis.

If the timing of the handover changes, should there also be a change of leader?

It might well be that when they do review the matter, Mr Heng will again be reaffirmed by his colleagues as the top choice.

This will be a good outcome for the party because it is the least unsettling and he would benefit from the reconfirmation.

But if the party decides differently, it has to move quickly to make the change.

In making this call, I am not suggesting that Mr Heng's claim to the leadership has been damaged by his team's performance in East Coast GRC where it met a WP team.

In fact, the swing against the PAP there was seven percentage points, lower than the national average of nearly nine points.Other PAP leaders such as Mr Chan Chun Sing saw a sharper 14 percentage point swing at his Tanjong Pagar GRC, against a PSP team.

Several other 4G leaders also saw several point drops in the share of votes for the PAP slates they led, and generally, the fall was much sharper where they were up against strong opponents from the WP or PSP.

I am more concerned about how much the world has changed, and therefore it is important to re-examine all the previous assumptions, including on leadership.

The second major issue that GE2020 highlighted is an equally critical one: How to win over younger voters.

About 55 per cent of Singaporeans are under 45, and in constituencies like Sengkang, they make up 60 per cent of voters.

One key to being relevant is obviously to field candidates in sync with voters, and the WP's winning slate in Sengkang demonstrates this reality.

To be fair to the PAP, it too has done likewise with younger candidates.

But it is only half the story.

Equally important is your position and policy on issues that matter to the young. This is a large question affecting many areas and I will cite just one: Race.

Every survey has shown that young Singaporeans have a more liberal and enlightened attitude towards race and are more accepting of people of different races.

They are less likely to agree, for example, with the ruling party's stand that Singapore is not ready for a non-Chinese prime minister.

When the PAP continues to hold this line, the young hear the message loud and clear: You are not listening to me.

In contrast, the WP is led by an Indian, and so is the chairman of the Singapore Democratic Party.

Should it surprise anyone if opposition parties appear to young voters as more appealing and less constrained by dated thinking?

Another old slogan that needs overhauling: That the PAP needs a strong mandate to govern.

Most people would agree with this, but how strong it needs to be will be different between a young voter compared with a 60-year-old baby boomer.

The party needs a more sophisticated and nuanced approach, especially in a new social media environment where you have to respond quickly to feedback and changing circumstances.

Is the PAP nimble and flexible enough to make these changes?

This is not about policy, but about mindset and governing style, which brings me to my third point.

The PAP has not changed its fundamental approach, which is top down and technocratic.

Over the last few years, it has made several unpopular decisions that reinforce this perception, including the reserved presidency, the impending increase in the goods and services tax, new laws on fake news, and its uncompromising stance on critics and dissenters.

It used to be said that the Government was not afraid to make unpopular decisions because voters will judge it over a five-year period, especially over whether it has delivered the good life.

Two things have happened to change this equation.

First, the good life is no longer as assured as it was in the earlier years when near double-digit economic growth was normal.

Now, 3 per cent is considered outstanding.

Second, the electorate, especially the young, no longer view such a paternalistic approach as tough love. More likely, it is seen as being high-handed and out of touch.

In effect, they want a PAP-lite, minus the hard edges that are part of the party's DNA.

Can it evolve into such a party and will the change be good for Singapore?

That is one of the defining questions of GE2020.

The writer is also senior fellow at the S. Rajaratnam School of International Studies, Nanyang Technological University.

Over 4,700 votes cast by citizens in polling stations abroad
By Rei Kurohi, The Straits Times, 16 Jul 2020

More than 4,700 Singaporeans voted overseas in the July 10 General Election, largely following patterns similar to citizens who voted locally.

A few exceptions were seen in a number of hotly contested constituencies, where overseas voters supported the team that had lost.

In Sengkang GRC, which was won by the Workers' Party (WP) with 52.1 per cent of the votes, 105 overseas voters supported the People's Action Party (PAP) team instead, while another 81 voters chose the WP team.

In East Coast GRC, which was also contested by the WP, slightly more overseas voters supported the WP over the PAP team that eventually won. The PAP team had 135 votes from citizens abroad, while the WP team had 147 votes.

Meanwhile, more overseas voters supported the Singapore Democratic Party's Professor Paul Tambyah in Bukit Panjang SMC and the Progress Singapore Party (PSP) team that contested West Coast GRC over the PAP slates.

Prof Tambyah garnered 20 votes while the PAP's Mr Liang Eng Hwa received 15. The PSP's West Coast team, led by party chief Tan Cheng Bock, had 125 votes over the PAP team's 113 votes.

The PAP candidates received strong support in a few other constituencies, such as Hong Kah North SMC, where Dr Amy Khor received 14 votes against the PSP's Ms Gigene Wong, who had five.

Ms Sun Xueling of the PAP received 18 votes in Punggol West SMC against the WP's Ms Tan Chen Chen, who received five.

Yio Chu Kang SMC voters were exactly split between the PAP's Mr Yip Hon Weng and the PSP's Ms Kayla Low, with 19 votes each.

Independent candidate Cheang Peng Wah received one vote in Pioneer SMC, PSP's Mr Lim Cher Hong had four, and the PAP's Mr Patrick Tay had 22, making it more than 80 per cent of the vote share.

There were 50 rejected votes among the ballots cast overseas.

The results of the July 10 election were already decided before the overseas votes were counted, as the margins of victory for all 31 constituencies were greater than the total number of overseas registered voters for each constituency.

The PAP's national vote share fell by one-hundredth of a percentage point, from 61.24 per cent before accounting for overseas voters, to 61.23 per cent.

The Elections Department (ELD) said yesterday that 72.3 per cent of the 6,570 registered overseas voters turned up to vote.

The votes cast by the 4,794 Singaporeans at designated polling stations around the world were counted yesterday at the ELD Training Centre in Victoria Street, the ELD said.

A further 101 Singaporeans had applied to vote overseas but were unable to do so, owing to a glitch in the Immigration and Checkpoints Authority's system.

The overseas voters cast their ballots in 10 cities around the world with significant numbers of Singaporeans: Beijing, Canberra, Dubai, Hong Kong, London, New York, San Francisco, Shanghai, Tokyo and Washington.

These were the same 10 cities where Singaporeans overseas could vote in the 2015 General Election.

Including the overseas voters, the total number of votes cast in the July 10 election was 2,540,359, including 45,822 rejected votes.

This is 95.81 per cent of the 2,651,435 registered electors, the ELD said. The voter turnout, which was the highest it has been in more than two decades, increased slightly from the 95.63 per cent at the close of the polls in Singapore.

Ahead of the ELD's official announcement, WP candidate for East Coast GRC Terence Tan had shared the breakdown of the overseas votes for his constituency on Facebook, noting that there were no spoilt votes.

His wife, fellow WP member and new MP for Sengkang GRC He Ting Ru, said in a Facebook post last night that she was "deeply touched" by the love for Singapore shown by overseas voters.

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