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GE2015: PAP scores stunning victory; opposition sees support erode

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The People's Action Party powered to a stunning win in the 2015 general election, lifting its overall vote share by 9.72 percentage points to 69.86 per cent.

[SINGAPORE] The People's Action Party (PAP) powered to a stunning win in the 2015 general election, lifting its overall vote share by 9.72 percentage points to 69.86 per cent - and reversing a two-election slide in their popular vote.

Meanwhile, the main opposition party, the Workers' Party (WP), saw its support erode with narrower margins than before, and the loss of one single-member constituency (SMC).

The final results showed a nation-wide resurgence in support for the ruling party - a surprising outcome to many, given its 2011 vote share of 60.14 per cent, which was its weakest showing since independence.

Of the 89 seats in Parliament, 83 will be held by PAP, and six by WP.

In a press conference after the final results came in, Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong said that the results "exceeded (PAP's) expectations". And while the party failed to win over Aljunied GRC and Hougang SMC, Mr Lee said that one day, it will claim them back.

In his victory speech in Marine Parade group representation constituency (GRC), Emeritus Senior Minister Goh Chok Tong said: "The people have spoken ... They have given a very strong mandate to (Mr Lee) and his team."

The ruling party's gain of an additional seat is thanks to its wresting back of Punggol East SMC from WP. PAP's Charles Chong won 51.76 per cent of the vote there - 1,156 votes more than the 48.24 per cent received by the incumbent WP's Lee Li Lian.

Still, WP retained its stronghold in the five-member Aljunied group representation constituency (GRC) and Hougang SMC - albeit with lesser margins than in 2011. In Aljunied GRC, WP won with 50.95 per cent of the votes, with PAP receiving 49.05 per cent.

Aljunied GRC was such a close call that it saw a recount, and was the last constituency to have its results confirmed at 3.10am on Saturday (Sept 12). The five-member WP slate, comprising Sylvia Lim, Low Thia Khiang, Chen Show Mao, Pritam Singh, and Muhamad Faisal Abdul Manap, retain their seats in Parliament.

As for Hougang SMC, WP's Png Eng Huat won 57.69 per cent of the vote, beating PAP's Lee Hong Chuang who took 42.31 per cent - the ruling party's worst showing.

Despite the loss of Punggol East SMC, Low Thia Khiang told reporters that he is “satisfied with the performance of WP,” and noted the “massive swing” in favour of the ruling party.

Still, even as he congratulated PAP for gaining a “strong mandate to configure the fourth generation of leaders”, he stressed the need for the government to build trust between citizens and national institutions – including the civil service, the judiciary, and the mainstream media.

Apart from Aljunied GRC and Hougang SMC, the PAP swept up decisive victories island-wide. It captured over 70 per cent of the vote share in 15 constituencies - a massive improvement from its 2011 showing, which saw only Hong Kah North SMC breaching the 70 per cent mark (and even then, only marginally at 70.61 per cent).

In fact, against the 2011 elections alone, PAP gained in every constituency except Punggol East. There, its vote share was 2.78 percentage points lower at 51.76 per cent; but against the 2013 by-election - which it had lost to WP's Ms Lee - PAP gained 8.03 percentage points.

Among PAP's surprise wins was its victory in Fengshan SMC. Most analysts had earlier agreed that the new SMC - carved out from East Coast GRC - was most within WP's reach. Instead, long-time grassroots volunteer Cheryl Chan won the seat by garnering 57.52 per cent of the vote share, ahead of WP candidate Dennis Tan's 42.48 per cent.

In addition, East Coast GRC saw PAP take 60.73 per cent of the vote, leaving WP with 39.27 per cent. The four-seat constituency was the PAP's worst-performing GRC that won in GE2011, and was predicted to be one of the most hotly-contested areas in this election.

The PAP's East Coast GRC team - comprising Manpower Minister Lim Swee Say, Senior Minister of State for Trade and Industry and National Development Lee Yi Shyan, Minister of State for National Development and Defence Mohamad Maliki Osman, and two-term backbencher Jessica Tan - beat WP's Gerald Giam, Daniel Goh, Leon Perera and Mohamed Fairoz Shariff.

PAP's best-performing constituency was Jurong GRC, which was led by Deputy Prime Minister and Finance Minister Tharman Shanmugaratnam. It garnered 79.28 per cent of votes, compared to Singaporeans First's (SingFirst's) 20.72 per cent.

The second- and third-best PAP areas were Ang Mo Kio GRC and West Coast GRC respectively. The former, led by Mr Lee, saw the PAP receive a 78.63 per cent vote share, while the ruling party captured 78.57 per cent in the latter.

Noting how the PAP has reclaimed a significant swathe of the ground it had lost before, DBS economist Irvin Seah told The Business Times: "This is not just a vote of confidence but more so an endorsement of the policy direction over the past few years, where policies have become more inclusive and people-focused."

Mr Lee also told reporters at the post-results press conference that one of the first orders of business is to assemble his new cabinet - something he hopes to do in two weeks' time. He said he will ensure that younger members are put into positions of greater responsibility quickly, since he wants to prepare Singapore's fourth generation of leaders in this term of government.

Meanwhile, three SMC candidates will lose their S$14,500 election deposits, after receiving less than 12.5 per cent of the votes in their constituencies. Independent candidates Han Hui Hui (Radin Mas SMC) and Samir Salim Neji (Bukit Batok SMC), as well as the National Solidarity Party's Cheo Chai Chen (MacPherson SMC) garnered only 10.04 per cent, 0.6 per cent, and 0.82 per cent of the votes respectively.

Read more about GE2015 here

Note: This story was updated at 4.08am, Sept 12, to include comments from PAP's press conference and WP's post-results remarks.