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WP retains Aljunied by the skin of its teeth

Results declared after a recount, with Workers' Party winning 50.95% of the votes, down from 54.72% in 2011

STAYING POSITIVE: On Workers' Party's loss of the Punggol East seat, Mr Low said. "That is elections. You win, you lose." On his party's performance, he said: "Despite the massive swing towards the PAP, we withstand the swing."
SO CLOSE: Mr Yeo (centre) said that his team will do a thorough review of the results.


THE Workers' Party (WP) kept a delicate hold over the Aljunied group representation constituency (GRC) in the 2015 election's tightest race against a so-called "suicide squad" from the ruling People's Action Party (PAP).

The result was settled by a recount that dragged the results announcement into the early hours of Saturday morning.

With a vote share of 50.95 per cent, against the PAP's 49.05 per cent, WP did poorer than its previous - and historic - showing of 54.72 per cent in 2011. Then, it wrested control from the PAP, whose team was led by former foreign affairs minister George Yeo.

The ward - which did not get its electoral boundaries redrawn - has 148,142 voters.

The difference between the votes came down to 2,612. The number of spoilt votes was 1,638 - or 1.1 per cent. In 2011, this was 1.3 per cent - or 1,788 out of 133,685 votes.

The WP team comprised Low Thia Khiang, Sylvia Lim, Muhamad Faisal Abdul Manap, Pritam Singh and Chen Show Mao - the same team that gave the de-facto opposition party a breakthrough amid the GRC system, where each ward is typically fronted by a minister.

This time, the PAP fielded a new team, led not by a minister, but veteran politician Yeo Guat Kwang. He was joined by newcomers Victor Lye, Chua Eng Leong, K Muralidharan Pillai and Shamsul Kamar.

There was overwhelming support for the ruling party in this election, with voters swayed in part by Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong's call for Singaporeans to give him and his team a strong mandate to lead the country in the decades ahead.

The Aljunied team also got some campaigning support from Deputy Prime Minister Tharman Shanmugaratnam - whose Jurong GRC garnered the strongest vote share in this year's election.

The AHPETC issue could have left a dent in confidence as well. WP sought to dispel lingering doubts over the management of the Aljunied-Hougang-Punggol East Town Council (AHPETC) early in the game. Tackling it head-on at the first rally on homeground - Hougang Stadium - the Aljunied incumbents then were quick to say that the town council had "turned the corner".

"Despite the massive swing towards the PAP, we withstand the swing," Mr Low told reporters.

And in addressing supporters, WP's Mr Chen said that the team would reflect on the results.

The town council was rapped by both the Auditor-General's Office (AGO), and the High Court, for the litany of lapses in management of public monies.

Just before Nomination Day, the Ministry of National Development (MND) also charged that AHPETC's former managing agent, FM Solutions and Services (FMSS), had been "grossly profiteering off its sole client, AHPETC", and that the town council had overpaid. This claim got a swift rebuttal from WP, with the party claiming it has no control over FMSS's profits.

FMSS's main shareholders were the late Danny Loh and his wife, How Weng Fan. The company was incorporated seven days after WP won the Aljunied ward.

FMSS had its two main shareholders holding town council positions as secretary and general manager, respectively then. FMSS was the only bidder in the open tender called by AHPETC.

The AGO said this conflict of interest was not adequately dealt with, suggesting problems with its governance.

AHPETC has stressed that payments are signed off by the chairman or vice-chairman. But AGO's report suggested there was little documentary evidence to prove verification. FMSS stopped work with AHPETC in July. It will now be self-managed.

WP had shown a preference to address the AHPETC issue at rallies directly - with throngs of people flooding the rally venues of WP. There were a few instances where party members would tell the media in the morning that it would not address the issue again, but turned around to speak on the issue during the rallies at night.

PAP candidates took swipes at the town council issue, but largely toned down the attacks as the campaign wound down.

PAP's Mr Yeo told reporters that the team will do a thorough review of the results, and added that the team is "honest". 'We will deliver what we promise."

At a press conference, PM Lee said he was very pleased with the Aljunied results.

During the hustings, the tag-team of Mr Low and Ms Lim also staged a late rebuttal to comments by Charles Chong of PAP, essentially over the fiscal strength of Punggol East accounts before it was absorbed into the beleaguered town council in 2013. At WP's last rally, Ms Lim called it "unfinished business". WP lost Punggol East.

"Yes, unfortunately we lost Punggol East," said Mr Low. "But that is elections. You win, you lose."


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