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GE2020: PAP takes West Coast GRC with narrow win of 51.69%

West Coast PAP ST PHOTO MARK CHEONG.jpg
(from left): PAP’s candidates for West Coast GRC Rachel Ong, Desmond Lee, S Iswaran, Foo Mee Har and Ang Wei Neng, during a press conference on June 30.

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(from left): PSP’s West Coast GRC candidates Jeffrey Khoo, Hazel Poa, Tan Cheng Bock, Leong Mun Wai and Nadarajah Loganathan greeting residents in Jurong West on July 8.

IN ITS narrowest win this election, the People's Action Party (PAP) took the West Coast GRC with 51.69 per cent of the vote against the Progress Singapore Party (PSP), led by former-PAP MP Tan Cheng Bock.

The PAP secured 71,545 votes, versus the PSP's 66,871 votes. 1,645 votes were rejected.

West Coast GRC, which saw 140,061 votes cast, proved to be the hardest fought constituency in GE2020, with the People’s Action Party (PAP) eking out a narrow victory in what was previously a stronghold for the ruling party. The PAP's vote share in the constituency fell about 27 percentage points, compared with the last election.

This result means that the PSP’s West Coast team is likely to land a non-constituency MP seat, usually offered to the losing opposition candidates with the highest percentage of votes among the losers at the general election.

West Coast is one of two GRCs, along with East Coast, that saw its number of MPs expanded – from four to five – after electoral boundaries were redrawn for this year’s polls.

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The PAP's team was led by S Iswaran, 58, and Desmond Lee, 43, who held the Cabinet positions of Minister for Communications and Information, as well as Minister for Social and Family Development, respectively before Parliament was dissolved. The team also comprises Foo Mee Har, 54, Ang Wei Neng, 53 and first-time contender Rachel Ong, 47.

Both Mr Lee and Mr Ang ran in the PAP's Jurong team in the last two elections. Mr Lee's move was seen as one to add heft to the incumbent team.

In a thank-you speech, Mr Iswaran acknowledged the close contest. "We will live up to that trust and honour the commitments we have made, and ensure that we work to improve the live and livelihoods, as we have stated throughout our campaign."

Mr Iswaran also acknowledged his opponents from PSP. "They presented a choice to the voters of West Coast, so they had a chance to think about what are the issues, and what is it at the end of the day that they want to vote for."

Commenting on the results, Dr Tan said his party has "caused an impact" in the election. "We may not have won the seats. But if you look at the level of support that is given to PSP candidates... I am actually quite proud of their performance."

Dr Tan, 80, is the oldest candidate in GE2020. He was a PAP MP for Ayer Rajah single member constituency (SMC) from 1980 to 2006, with Ayer Rajah SMC now part of West Coast GRC. In his previous parliamentary election in GE2001, he won 88 per cent of the votes under the PAP banner. He also lost narrowly to Dr Tony Tan Keng Yam in the 2011 presidential elections.

Apart from Dr Tan, PSP's team comprises Leong Mun Wai, 60, Hazel Poa, 50, Nadarajah Loganathan, 57, and Jeffrey Khoo, 51.

Political watchers attributed the relatively strong showing for PSP - a party that was formed just last year - to Dr Tan's rapport with residents in a constituency that included his former stronghold of Ayer Rajah. Dr Tan's use of social media to engage young voters also proved significant - the pool of his Instagram followers more than quadrupled throughout the nine-day campaign, and currently stands at 44,600.

Ex-PAP MP Inderjit Singh said that the PAP's dual-minister team helped garner support from electors. Its incumbent MPs have also "invested 10 years building ground support".

Mr Singh said the narrow winning margin was within his expectation. The PSP was set back by the timing of the election, he said. "They have not spent enough time on the ground. They attracted the young and social media savvy voters but not enough of the heartlanders."

Given that the PSP is one of the newest opposition parties, their overall showing does give them a boost to continue to entrench itself as a credible opposition in Singapore, said Dr Felix Tan, an associate lecturer with SIM Global Education.

"There is a huge likelihood that PSP could take up an NCMP seat, which will have a positive impact on such a new political party," said Dr Felix Tan.

PSP's Dr Tan had earlier told the media that he would not take up an NCMP seat. A likely candidate for the post would be Ms Poa, the party's vice-chairman, said Dr Felix Tan.

National University of Singapore lecturer Natalie Pang said the PSP's respectable showing was fuelled by Dr Tan's rapport with young and old voters. "For the older voters, there is familiar return to good old days of LKY and old guard," said Ms Pang.

"His use of social media has also been quite effective. He didn't just keep it online, he used Instagram to grow his social network with young people, and invited these ‘online friends’ to his house."

The PSP - which fielded the largest number of 24 candidates among opposition parties - saw close fights in other constituencies as well. In Marymount SMC, for instance, PSP candidate Ang Yong Guan, 65, got 45 per cent of the vote, losing to PAP’s first-time contender Gan Siow Huang, 45.

West Coast was the PAP’s third-best performing constituency in the last election. The ruling party took 78.57 per cent of the vote in 2015, against the Reform Party’s 21.43 per cent.

In 2011, the PAP won 66.6 per cent of the vote against the Reform Party’s 33.4 per cent.

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

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