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PAP's narrower margin at stronghold of Marine Parade a surprise

PAP team for Marine Parade GRC.jpg
PAP team for Marine Parade GRC during a walkabout on July 1. Former PAP MP Inderjit Singh said: "I think we are now seeing a clear pattern of party recognition over individual candidates."


THE People's Action Party's (PAP) significantly narrower winning margin in a sample count for its stronghold of Marine Parade GRC caught political observers by surprise. This was despite the party looking set to retain the ward and other strongholds in the Tampines, Jurong and Tanjong Pagar GRCs.

The PAP edged out the Workers' Party (WP) with 57 per cent of the vote in the sample count, versus the latter's 43 per cent.

The numbers are said to be fairly indicative of the possible outcome for a constituency; sample counts typically have a confidence level of 95 per cent, plus or minus four percentage points.

The last election in 2015 - widely seen as the PAP's best performance in recent years - also saw PAP taking on WP in the battle for Marine Parade, but with the former securing 64.07 per cent of the vote.

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This year saw Emeritus Senior Minister (EMS) Goh Chok Tong, who has served as an MP for Marine Parade since 1976, retiring. Professor Fatimah Lateef also stepped down as an MP for Marine Parade GRC.

But Mr Goh had helped to campaign; the PAP team - with Speaker of Parliament Tan Chuan-Jin, Senior Minister of State for Law and Health Edwin Tong and NTUC Enterprise group chief executive officer Seah Kian Peng defending their seats - was also seen as a strong one, noted former PAP MP Inderjit Singh, calling the sample count results "surprisingly low".

Said Mr Singh: "I think we are now seeing a clear pattern of party recognition over individual candidates. The PAP had a better slate of candidates but voters threw their weight behind the WP. It looks like WP has a stable base of around 35-40 per cent voters voting for the party. I also see a big swing of younger voters towards the opposition."

Another observer, Felix Tan, an associate lecturer at SIM Global Education, pointed to other factors. "Firstly, there is the absence of a strong anchor minister there, especially when EMS Goh Chok Tong has retired. Secondly, the WP has fielded quite a strong team there."

The WP team that took on the incumbents included Yee Jenn Jong - who also contested in Marine Parade in the 2015 election - Ron Tan, Muhammad Fadli Mohammed Fawzi, Muhammad Azhar Abdul Latip and Nathaniel Koh.

Dr Tan added that voters were generally "more vocal" this time: "There is clearly some underlying unhappiness in the constituency too."

The PAP had better showings in the Tampines, Jurong and Tanjong Pagar GRCs, this time with likely narrower winning margins as well, although analysts said the dips are within expectations.

In Tanjong Pagar, the PAP secured 78,079 votes, or 63.13 per cent. Meanwhile, 45,609 votes were cast for the Progress Singapore Party, representing 36.87 per cent of valid votes cast.

In GE2015, the PAP won 77.7 per cent of the votes in Tanjong Pagar while their opponents, the now-defunct Singaporeans First party, had 22.3 per cent of the votes cast.

In Tampines, the PAP looked set to fend off the National Solidarity Party (NSP) for the third time, securing 67 per cent of the votes in the sample count, against the latter's 33 per cent. It beat the NSP in 2015 with 72.1 per cent of the vote share, while the latter got 27.9 per cent.

In Jurong, the PAP team secured a 75-per cent vote share in the sample count, to Red Dot United's (RDU) 25 per cent.

"There has been an outpouring of support for (Senior Minister Tharman Shanmugaratnam) by both PAP and opposition supporters alike, and this should reflect heavily in his constituency given that RDU is a very new party and did not have a lot of time to make themselves known to voters," said School of Oriental and African Studies postgraduate Keiren Goh, who has written for current-affairs magazine The Diplomat.

At the 2015 polls, Jurong GRC was the best-performing ward for the PAP. The team secured 79.3 per cent of the votes against the Singaporeans First party.

But the incumbent teams will have their work cut out for them.

Eugene Tan, associate professor of law at Singapore Management University and former Nominated Member of Parliament said: "These slates have a higher proportion of first-time MPs and so they will need to establish the much-needed rapport with residents.

"Municipal issues will be crucial as residents expect MPs to be seen on the ground and to be effective in helping solve their problems."

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