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SO MUCH for soaring oratory, popularity on social media and sizeable rally crowds. In the end, these turned out to be inadequate to sway voters in Holland-Bukit Timah towards the Singapore Democratic Party (SDP), whose leader Chee Soon Juan watched his comeback dream fade late Friday night after the outcome of this year's general elections (GE).
The group representation constituency (GRC), commonly known as the "rich man's ward", voted overwhelmingly for the four-man team from the People's Action Party (PAP), which swept a final vote share of 66.62 per cent out of 94,010 valid votes. The SDP won the remaining 33.38 per cent. There were 8,981 no-shows in the ward, which had 104,491 voters in total - a 91.41 per cent turnout. There were also 1,500 spoilt votes.
The substantial size of the PAP's winning share for the district - at roughly double the SDP's votes - came as a relative surprise for political commentators, who had largely expected a somewhat closer contest. Those expectations were in light of what had appeared to be a strong show of support for Dr Chee at his speeches during the campaign season.
The PAP's vote share in Holland-Bukit Timah this year was also markedly higher than the 60.1 per cent the same slate had secured in GE2011, which had been against an SDP team led by former civil servant Tan Jee Say. Mr Tan, 61, later left the SDP and now leads the Singaporeans First (SingFirst) party.
The PAP team in Holland-Bukit Timah, unchanged from GE2011, was led by Minister for Environment and Water Resources Vivian Balakrishnan, 54. The other three candidates were Minister of State for Education as well as Communications and Information Sim Ann, 40; lawyer Christopher de Souza, 39; and Liang Eng Hwa, 51, who is a managing director at DBS.
Against them, the SDP had fielded Dr Chee, 53, who is the party's secretary-general; professor of medicine Paul Tambyah, 50; healthcare administrator Chong Wai Fung, 45; and compliance auditor Sidek Mallek, 55.
A visibly disappointed Dr Chee told a live-broadcast press conference after the election results that the party would "lose with grace", and congratulated his opponents for their wins. He added that the SDP would take stock after the poll results and continue to work for Singaporeans and try to bring them a "message of hope".
SDP candidate Paul Tambyah, a medical professor, said the PAP had run a "spectacular campaign", noting a "feel-good factor" surrounding the SG50 celebrations. SDP still wants to continue to "press for social justice", he said.
The SDP had sought to frame national policies as moral issues, calling for a "society of change". It had proposed that the country implement a minimum wage and change its healthcare policies to make medical care cheaper or even free. It had also suggested a national healthcare investment fund.
This year's elections had marked Dr Chee's return to the political scene after his bankruptcy status kept him away from the previous two elections. His bankruptcy, which arose from a defamation suit by former prime ministers Lee Kuan Yew and Goh Chok Tong, was annulled in 2012, leaving the door open for him to contest in 2015.
However, Deputy Prime Minister Tharman Shanmugaratnam, who is also Finance Minister, later pointed out in response that no country in the world has managed to provide free healthcare and other social services without needing to raise taxes for middle-income workers. The PAP team for Holland-Bukit Timah had hit out directly against the SDP and Dr Chee during the hustings with Dr Balakrishnan, the anchor minister in the PAP slate, declaring that the SDP would "set us on the road to Greece".
The SDP also lost in the Bukit Panjang single-member constituency (SMC), where the PAP secured a vote share of 68.4 per cent out of 32,078 votes cast. There were 626 rejected votes and 1,613 no-shows in the SMC, which saw a 95.3 per cent turnout for its 34,317 voters.
The PAP's Teo Ho Pin, or "Mr Town Council", successfully defended his seat in a straight fight with the Singapore Democratic Party's (SDP's) Khung Wai Yeen, who secured 31.6 per cent.
Dr Teo, 55, served as MP for the former Holland-Bukit Panjang GRC from 2001 to 2006, before taking charge of the Bukit Panjang SMC from 2006. He was elected again as MP for Bukit Panjang SMC in GE2011, where he secured 66.3 per cent of the votes in the ward against SDP's Alec Tok. Mr Khung, 34, is an accounts manager at a European multinational company.
Follow our Singapore General Election coverage online at bt.sg/ge_15