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GE2020

All eyes on quartet of 'hot' GRCs

Opposing camps woo voters by reiterating their commitment to work for residents

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The East Coast constituency of nearly 122,000 voters has witnessed close contests at the last two GEs, with the PAP winning on both occasions.

Singapore

ALL 17 group representation constituencies (GRCs) are being contested in Friday's General Election (GE). Some - in particular Aljunied, East Coast, Sengkang and West Coast - have generated more chatter than others over the nine days of campaigning.

This is a snapshot of what's been said by the opposing camps in each of these hotly-contested battlegrounds during the campaign:

Aljunied

The Workers' Party (WP) has been in charge of this five-member GRC since the 2011 polls, making history that year as the first opposition party to secure a GRC.

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The People's Action Party (PAP) team made inroads at GE2015 in its attempt to wrest back the constituency. After a recount of the ballot papers, the PAP lost narrowly with 49.05 per cent of the valid votes.

This time round, the WP has a new look to its Aljunied slate as it defends its prized turf. Former party chief Low Thia Khiang and two-term MP Chen Show Mao have retired, with former non-constituency MPs Gerald Giam and Leon Perera taking their places.

WP secretary-general Pritam Singh appealed for the support of Aljunied's 151,000 voters by stressing that the party has spoken up for them in Parliament by asking all the "tough questions".

He also said the WP MPs have been "rational and reasonable" when it comes to supporting the government's agenda when it is "on the right track".

The party only opposes when they find that something is not being done in the national interest, he said.

The WP has also repeatedly said that the Aljunied-Hougang Town Council's financial position is a healthy one, with the town council steadily building up its operating fund position since late-2015 when the previous parliament term began.

Their PAP opponents have reiterated to voters that, after nine long years of Aljunied being in opposition hands, it is time to "bring us home".

Team leader Victor Lye said in a constituency political broadcast that it has not been easy to serve in Aljunied, but the ruling party has chosen his team to do so and they have been "tested by adversity" over the years.

He called on the whole of Singapore, including Aljunied residents, to come together in the national effort, led by the PAP, to steer the country through the Covid-19 pandemic and economic crisis.

One of the PAP's two first-time candidates in Aljunied, Alex Yeo, said his team's election message is a simple one. "We want to do more. More importantly, we want to do more with you, for you," he said.

East Coast

This constituency of nearly 122,000 voters has witnessed close contests at the last two GEs, with the PAP coming out on top on both occasions.

In one of the main talking points on Nomination Day, Deputy Prime Minister Heng Swee Keat made the switch from Tampines GRC to lead the PAP's East Coast team.

He said his decision to move was because East Coast could not afford a "succession gap" in these uncertain times, with the constituency's former minister Lim Swee Say retiring from politics.

Mr Heng, the new anchor minister, has promised East Coast residents that their needs will be taken care of in these "difficult times", giving the assurance that, if elected, his team and the PAP government will continue to work hard to see the constituency and the country through the crisis.

At a walkabout on Wednesday, Mr Heng said the residents he has met so far are thoughtful about the current situation and the future of Singapore.

"This election is a serious election. It is about our lives, our jobs, our future. I'm glad the message has been reinforced very strongly to everyone," he said.

Nicole Seah, arguably the most recognisable face on the WP's East Coast team, noted that voters have a "very difficult choice" to make on Polling Day.

"What we need to do is ensure the WP team continues to push very hard to make every vote count," she said last week.

"We recognise the very strong possibility that there is going to be a freak election result that might potentially wipe out the opposition, and especially all of the hard work and the ground that the WP has gained over the years."

Sengkang

This is the only completely new GRC in GE2020. In the PAP corner, the four-member team is helmed by labour chief Ng Chee Meng and includes two office-holders, Lam Pin Min and Amrin Amin.

They have been making their voices heard to as many of the 120,000 voters as possible, especially the younger families that make up many of the area's residents.

If elected, the PAP team intends to form the "Sengkang Together" movement, and work with residents to develop the town together.

Said Dr Lam in the team's constituency broadcast: "We will help young families like yours. We have built childcare centres, schools and playgrounds. We have ensured that each family and child has good opportunities to progress in life. We will do the same for the needy and the underprivileged."

The WP team in Sengkang has also devoted much of its campaign messaging to the younger voters. The four candidates, among them He Ting Ru and Jamus Lim, say they are part of the "sandwich" generation, given that their ages range from 26 to 44.

They have promised to serve residents with a new town council that will draw from the WP's experience in managing other wards that, in Dr Lim's words, are "just as good, if not better, than those run by the PAP".

A notable episode on this WP team's campaign trail came on Sunday when it was revealed that police reports had been made against candidate Raeesah Khan in relation to social media comments she made in the past alleging discrimination by Singapore's law enforcement authorities. Ms Khan on Sunday apologised for making the "insensitive" and "improper" remarks in two Facebook posts, and said she will fully cooperate in any police investigations.

West Coast

The interest level in this constituency was bumped up several notches when it was confirmed that Tan Cheng Bock - the chief of the Progress Singapore Party (PSP) and a former PAP backbencher of 26 years - was standing for election again.

The GRC includes the Ayer Rajah ward where the 80-year-old Dr Tan was its MP from 1980 to 2006. He has urged voters to select MPs who will ask the "right questions" and ensure the next government is more transparent and less sterile.

On Wednesday, Dr Tan said the key message he hopes "Singaporeans will understand (is that) every government must be examined based on certain very fundamental principles".

On Nomination Day, the PAP completed its line-up by moving Social and Family Development Minister Desmond Lee from the nearby Jurong GRC to join anchor minister S Iswaran's five-member team in West Coast GRC.

Mr Iswaran said his team has the ability to strike a balance between thinking in large policy terms and executing policies, and catering to the needs of a diverse group of residents. If elected, he said his team members will pool their strengths to develop programmes that would apply across the GRC.

"It is not just about what you do in a nine-day campaign. It is about how we have done this week in, week out over the past five years, in order to understand their needs and respond to them with not just national policies, but also local programmes," he said.

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