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PAP retains supermajority but with lower vote share
BASED on the early sample counts and final tallies for the 31 wards at press time, the ruling People's Action Party (PAP) is set to retain its two-thirds super-majority, its vote share close to historic lows, with the opposition bagging its second-ever group representation constituency (GRC) in the General Election (GE).
By 12:33am on Saturday morning, the sample counts were in for all 31 constituencies amid a record turnout. after voting hours were extended for the first time in history - by two hours to 10pm - to cope with long queues seen at many polling stations.
Based on those estimates, which had a margin of error within 4 percentange points in the last GE, the PAP would have secured 83 out of 93 seats - well in excess of the 62 required for a two-thirds majority in the House, but with a record number of seats going to the opposition, in only the second GE since independence to see every seat contested.
The Workers' Party (WP) looked to have claimed Sengkang GRC with 53 per cent of the sample count vote - which would mean the loss of three PAP office-holders - while improving its margins as the incumbent in both Aljunied GRC and Hougang SMC.
This would mean a record 10 candidates from the WP - and indeed, the opposition - elected to the next Parliament.
The sample count figures suggest an overall PAP vote share of about 61.7 per cent, closer to 2011's post-independence low of 60.14 per cent than GE2015's 69.86 per cent figure. Compared to 2015, there were swings away from the PAP in all constituencies that had existed then, except the single seats of Macpherson and Mountbatten, and Holland-Bukit Timah GRC.
Deputy Prime Minister Heng Swee Keat, who made a surprise move to head the PAP's East Coast GRC team, received just 53.41 per cent of the valid votes, against a WP team that included Nicole Seah.
Amid the Covid-19 pandemic, a record 96 per cent of 2.65 million registered voters had voted by 8pm, up from 93.56 per cent in GE2015. This is not including 6,570 registered overseas voters whose physical ballots have to be sent back to Singapore to be added to the tally.
With added safety measures due to the pandemic, some polling stations saw longer-than-usual queues. By lunchtime, the initial requirement for voters to don disposable gloves had been scrapped to shorten the waiting times.
But as some long queues persisted, the Returning Officer declared an unprecedented extension of voting till 10pm, two hours beyond the usual 8am to 8pm duration.
This was to "allow enough time for all voters to cast their votes", said the Elections Department. Some opposition parties protested the move, questioning its legality and criticising the effect on their polling agents, some of whom could not stay until 10pm.
The PAP's best GRC showing seemed to be in Jurong GRC, where the team led by Senior Minister Tharman Shanmugaratnam took 74.62 per cent of the sample count vote against newly-formed Red Dot United, which received 25.38 per cent of the votes. This was also where the PAP saw its highest vote share of 79.29 per cent in GE2015.
Next was Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong's team in Ang Mo Kio GRC, with 71.91 per cent of the valid votes against the Reform Party (RP), down from 78.64 per cent in 2015.
Other GRCs where the PAP took more than 65 per cent of the sample count vote were Bishan-Toa Payoh, Holland-Bukit Timah, Jalan Besar, Sembawang, and Tampines. While there were 10 opposition parties this GE - the highest ever - the sample count showed WP as the only one winning seats, increasing its vote share in Aljunied to 60 per cent from 50.96 per cent in 2015, holding steady at 58 per cent in Hougang, and gaining Sengkang.
If the final results for Sengkang are similar, that means the loss of Minister in the Prime Minister's Office and labour chief Ng Chee Meng; Senior Minister of State for Health and Transport Lam Pin Min; and Parliamentary Secretary for Home Affairs Amrin Amin, who ran with new candidate Raymond Lye.
The WP also pulled in 43 per cent of the sample count vote in Marine Parade GRC, where the PAP team was led by Speaker of Parliament Tan Chuan-Jin after Emeritus Senior Minister Goh Chok Tong's retirement.
Given the margin for error, there remained a chance that the Progress Singapore Party (PSP), with the largest opposition slate of 24 candidates, could make a gain with its star team in West Coast GRC, headed by party chief and former PAP MP Tan Cheng Bock.
In the sample count, 52 per cent of the vote in West Coast GRC went to the PAP team led by ministers S Iswaran and Desmond Lee.
Assuming Sengkang went to the WP in the final tally, that would make West Coast GRC the constituency with the best-performing opposition losers, which means the PSP team could be offered Non-Constituency Members of Parliament (NCMP) seats.
There can be up to 12 NCMP seats in the next Parliament, less the number of elected opposition MPs.
The PSP managed sample count vote shares of 32 per cent to 46 per cent in the other constituencies that it contested.
The Singapore Democratic Party, which fielded 11 candidates, did better in the single seats where party leaders Chee Soon Juan and Paul Tambyah stood, gaining 43 per cent in Bukit Batok and 44 per cent in Bukit Panjang respectively, according to the sample count.
The Peoples Voice party, which fielded 10 candidates, may have lost its deposit in a three-cornered fight in Pasir Ris-Punggol GRC by failing to get at least 12.5 per cent of the vote.
The sample count showed the PAP team taking 63 per cent of the vote, with the Singapore Democratic Alliance (SDA) - contesting there for the fourth time - taking 25 per cent and the PV team just 12 per cent.
In the only other three-cornered fight, the PAP's Patrick Tay defended Pioneer SMC with 62 per cent of the valid vote against the PSP's Lim Cher Hong and independent candidate Cheang Peng Wah, with the latter forfeiting his S$13,500 election deposit with 2.7 per cent of the vote.
For more of our Singapore GE2020 coverage, go to bt.sg/ge2020.