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GE2020: PAP retains Potong Pasir SMC with lower margin at 60.69%

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PAP Candidate for Potong Pasir SMC Sitoh Yih Pin at a doorstop interview at St Andrew’s Junior College on polling day.

THE People's Action Party Sitoh Yih Pin has won his third term for Potong Pasir SMC, seeing off a challenge from the Singapore People's Party chairman Jose Raymond. 

Mr Sitoh received 11,232 votes or 60.69 per cent, to Mr Raymond's 7,275 votes or 39.31 per cent. In 2015, Mr Sitoh had 66.4 per cent of the votes. Rejected votes were 278. In total, 18,507 valid votes were cast.

This was Mr Sitoh's fifth election, and the first for Mr Raymond who joined the SPP in October 2017. 

Potong Pasir SMC is the smallest constituency in terms of number of voters, and also one of the oldest having been formed in 1968. It saw its electoral boundaries changed for the first time in more than three decades. The ward has been enlarged to include parts of the new Bidadari housing estate.

Potong Pasir SMC was one of GE2020's single member constituencies to watch, with the SPP contesting for the first time without the "Chiam" factor.

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Potong Pasir was the stronghold of opposition icon Chiam See Tong for 27 years until 2011, when he left to contest as a member of SPP’s team in the Bishan-Toa Payoh GRC. Mr Chiam, 85, retired from politics last October.

In 2011, Mr Chiam’s wife Lina Chiam stood in the Potong Pasir constituency and narrowly lost to Mr Sitoh, who won 50.4 per cent of the votes – a 114-vote margin. In 2015, Mr Sitoh improved his showing with 66.4 per cent of the vote against Mrs Chiam. 

Mr Sitoh’s double-digit improved majority in 2015 was the best among PAP candidates.

The Chiam factor is fading, said Eugene Tan Singapore Management University law professor. "Sitoh is establishing himself relatively well in Potong Pasir but having been a long-time opposition ward between 1984 and 2011, complacency must be avoided," he said.

"Jose Raymond ran a slick campaign with powerful messaging of why he is in politics. He communicates effectively and a revitalised SPP can boost his chances in a future contest," added Prof Tan. Earlier Prof Tan had said that if Mr Raymond could reduce Mr Sitoh's majority, this would be a good first outing for the SPP candidate.

According to former PAP MP Inderjit Singh, it was not surprising that Mr Sitoh won as he has spent much time in Potong Pasir.

"The PAP fought it for a long time before victory in 2011, and has invested a lot of time and effort in the seat," said Mr Singh.

In his televised political broadcast, Mr Sitoh's key message was to care for three generations of residents in Potong Pasir.

He urged the young to “dream big and pursue your passions”, and grow up in a neighbourhood “that is equipped with everything they need, from tuition lessons to holiday enrichment activities and many more”.

To middle-aged residents, he gave this assurance: “Don’t worry! We will create ample programmes for you and your families. We will always be here for you.” For  seniors he had a sunny message: “Age well and live happily! I want our elderly to have their healthcare needs met and live fulfilling golden years.”

Mr Sitoh, 56 said his team has the capability and passion to improve Potong Pasir. Among the amenities he has promised residents in his five-year plan is a polyclinic and a new activity hub.

Mr Raymond, 48, is the chief strategy officer of communications firm SW Strategies. He was also a former journalist and at one point a PAP member, as well as press secretary to Dr Vivian Balakrishnan when the latter was Environment and Water Resources Minister.

For more of our Singapore GE2020 coverage, go to bt.sg/ge2020

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