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GE2020: GRC SHOWDOWNS

PAP scores narrow win against PSP in West Coast GRC

It obtains 51.7% of the votes against 48.3% by the party led by former PAP MP Tan Cheng Bock

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PAP's candidates for West Coast GRC (from left) Rachel Ong, Desmond Lee, S Iswaran, Foo Mee Har and Ang Wei Neng.

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PSP chief Tan Cheng Bock (centre) with the rest of his West Coast GRC team.

Singapore

WEST Coast GRC proved to be the hardest fought constituency in GE2020, with the People's Action Party (PAP) eking out its narrowest win in this election.

The final tally showed PAP obtaining 51.7 per cent of the votes against 48.3 per cent by the Progress Singapore Party (PSP), led by former PAP MP Tan Cheng Bock. The PAP got 71,545 votes versus the PSP's 66,871 votes, with 1,645 votes rejected.

West Coast, which has 146,089 voters, was one of the most closely-watched GRCs in the electoral battle.

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

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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.

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 to the West Coast GRC was seen as adding heft to the incumbent team.

Ex-PAP MP Inderjit Singh said that while the PAP's dual-minister team helped garner support from voters, its incumbent MPs had also "invested 10 years building ground support".

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. In his last Parliamentary contest in 2001 prior to GE2020, 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 Ayer Rajah stronghold.

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.

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 said 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.

Mr Singh said the narrow winning margin was within his expectation. He felt the PSP did not have sufficient time to work the ground.

"They attracted the young and social media savvy voters but not enough of the heartlanders," he said.

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.

Dr Tan said he was proud of his party's performance in this election.

West Coast was the PAP's third-best performing constituency in the last election. The ruling party took 78.6 per cent of the vote in 2015, against the Reform Party's 21.4 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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