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Heng's last-minute move to East Coast GRC pays off

PAP wins ward with 53.41 per cent of valid votes

Deputy Prime Minister Heng Swee Keat (third from right) with fellow East Coast GRC candidates (from left) Tan Kiat How, Jessica Tan, Maliki Osman and Cheryl Chan.


IN a continuation of the fierce election from 2011, the East Coast GRC has witnessed a very keen fight between the ruling party People's Action Party (PAP) and the Workers' Party (WP).

The PAP team anchored by Deputy Prime Minister Heng Swee Keat defeated the opposition party with 53.41 per cent of the votes. The winning margin was 7.32 percentage points less than its performance in 2015.

Besides the 58-year-old, the team has Maliki Osman, 54; Jessica Tan Soon Neo, 54; Cheryl Chan, 44; and fresh face Tan Kiat How, 43.

The WP slate is made up of Abdul Shariff Aboo Kassim, 54; Foo Seck Guan, 38; Terence Tan, 44; Dylan Ng, 40; and Nicole Seah, 33. Both Mr Ng and Mr Tan had contested in Marine Parade for WP in 2015.

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A total of 114,237 valid votes were cast on Friday, of which 61,009 went to PAP; 1,393 votes were rejected.

Eugene Tan, associate professor at Singapore Management University, said in a television broadcast on CNA that the PAP team is off the pace again this election, as he noted that the PAP team had won 60.7 per cent of the votes in 2015 and 54.8 per cent in 2011.

Prof Tan said: "I wasn't expecting it to be so close. It has come off somewhat as a surprise because this was a slate that the PAP puts a lot of efforts in, in terms of deploying DPM Heng Swee Keat to the constituency, in an attempt to perhaps stop East Coast from being seen as the constituency that is ripe for the opposition's picking."

He said the score could perhaps reflect the actual support that the PAP had garnered in 2015, but for the SG50 celebrations and the passing of Mr Lee Kuan Yew. The late Mr Lee, founding Prime Minister, passed away in March 2015, about six months before the 2015 General Election. His passing had drawn a flood of tributes and a large turnout to pay last respects to him.

If this continues in terms of how the votes are allocated, he thinks that there is a lot of work for the East Coast PAP team, he added.

Mustafa Izzuddin, senior international affairs analyst at Solaris Strategies Singapore, said in a television interview on CNA that this should not be seen as a referendum on Mr Heng's leadership.

Dr Mustafa said: "As far as the East Coast GRC is concerned, I think if you look at the sample count, one argument could be now it's been a very important move or a very important decision for DPM Heng to move to East Coast, that could be one argument that he has strengthened his team... A win is a win."

Prof Tan said it would be quite unfair to expect any politician to be able to work ground in just nine days such that to change the voters' perceptions.

Expectations had been that the GRC, bordering the WP-held Aljunied GRC and the most narrowly won GRC for the PAP in 2015, would see a tight race. Perhaps sensing vulnerability, the PAP put forward a slate helmed by heavyweight DPM Heng - a move that appeared to have been decided last minute.

DPM Heng was elected into Parliament in 2011 by Tampines GRC electorate, for whom he has been the Member of Parliament (MP) for two terms till he made the surprise move to leave for East Coast GRC.

Mr Heng said he decided to move to East Coast GRC, as the constituency cannot afford a "succession gap" in such uncertain times.

He replaced former Manpower Minister Lim Swee Say, who is retiring from politics, as the anchor minister in East Coast GRC.

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