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GE2020: SMC BATTLES

PAP retains Potong Pasir SMC with reduced margin

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Mr Sitoh polled 60.69 per cent compared to Mr Raymond's 39.31 per cent, down from his 66.4 per cent share in 2015.

Singapore

THE People's Action Party Sitoh Yih Pin has won his third term for Potong Pasir SMC, on a lower margin. He was up against 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 won 66.4 per cent of the votes. Rejected votes were 278. Total votes cast was 18,507.

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.

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With 19,740 voters, 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. 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 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, it would be a very good first outing for the SPP candidate.

According to former PAP MP Inderjit Singh, it was not surprising 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.

It was going to be uphill for Mr Raymond and SPP in Potong Pasir, said Keiren Goh, a postgraduate student from the London University's School of Oriental and African Studies.

"Rather than win the seat, Jose Raymond will likely be aiming to make himself known to voters and raise (the SPP's) profile nationally and in the constituency ahead of future elections," said London-based Mr Goh.

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 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.

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