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GE2020: SMC BATTLES

PAP rookies beat PSP in two new SMCs

Tough fight yields narrower-than-expected margin for ex-general Gan Siow Huang in Marymount

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Ms Gan (left) took Marymount SMC with 55.04 per cent of valid votes, while Mr Yip (right) clinched 60.83 per cent of the vote in Yio Chu Kang SMC.

Singapore

NEWCOMERS from the People's Action Party (PAP) successfully fended off the Progress Singapore Party (PSP) in two new SMCs on Friday's general election.

Former Singapore Armed Forces general Gan Siow Huang, 46, took Marymount SMC with 55.04 per cent of valid votes. Meanwhile, former public servant Yip Hon Weng, 43, clinched 60.83 per cent of the vote in Yio Chu Kang SMC.

Still, the margin of victory was thinner than precedent suggested - especially in Marymount, where Ms Gan made her political debut against 65-year-old opposition stalwart Ang Yong Guan.

Political analyst Felix Tan, an associate lecturer at SIM Global Education, told The Business Times that Marymount voters may have been split between "very strong candidates from the PAP and PSP".

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Ms Gan, who is now deputy chief executive of the Devan Nair Institute for Employment and Employability, had previously spent more than 25 years in the air force.

There, she made her mark as Singapore's first woman general.

Meanwhile, psychiatrist Dr Ang is no stranger to politics. He had contested elsewhere under the banners of the Singapore Democratic Party in 2011 and now-defunct Singaporeans First party in 2015.

Besides the strengths of each candidate, another factor in the close race in Marymount, which comprises parts of Bishan-Toa Payoh GRC's old Bishan North ward, could be recent discontent with Manpower Minister Josephine Teo.

Mrs Teo used to represent the Bishan North area in the group representation constituency. Her PAP team won 73.6 per cent of the vote in 2015 against the Singapore People's Party.

But the deadly novel coronavirus epidemic, which has infected nearly 43,000 migrant workers living in dormitories here, may have soured sentiment on the ground, even with a new face fronting the PAP campaign.

Mrs Teo, who oversees the foreign workforce in Singapore, moved from Bishan-Toa Payoh to contest this general election in Jalan Besar GRC.

"There are definitely some voters who would use this election to show their dissatisfaction with how the PAP has handled the foreign worker dormitories," Dr Tan said to BT. "This might have led to the vote shares in this constituency (Marymount)."

Meanwhile, PAP's Mr Yip had a steadier footing in Yio Chu Kang SMC.

He stood against chartered accountant Kayla Low, 43, of the PSP.

Ms Low is also a political debutant. Mr Yip headed the Silver Generation Office at the Agency for Integrated Care, before stepping down to make a parliamentary bid.

He ran in what had been the Yio Chu Kang ward, held by Senior Minister of State for Trade and Industry Koh Poh Koon, before it was carved out of Ang Mo Kio GRC.

The PAP last defended Ang Mo Kio GRC - where the team is helmed by Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong - with 78.63 per cent against the Reform Party in 2015.

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

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