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GE2020: GRC SHOWDOWNS

WP fends off PAP to retain Aljunied GRC with bigger margin

The sample count result is a near 10 percentage-point improvement over the party's vote share in GE 2015

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The WP won 60 per cent of the votes, a victory that political observers say could help them keep the constituency under its charge for an extended period of time.

Singapore

THE Workers' Party (WP) has retained Aljunied GRC against the ruling People's Action Party (PAP) with 60 per cent of the votes at the 2020 General Election, a victory that political observers say could help WP keep the constituency under its charge for an extended period of time.

Based on sample count, WP's result is a nearly 10 percentage-point improvement over the party's vote share in GE 2015, when the team won by a far narrower margin with just 50.96 per cent of the votes against the ruling PAP.

The WP team comprises party chief Pritam Singh, chairman Sylvia Lim, Faisal Manap, as well as former Non-Constituency MPs Leon Perera and Gerald Giam.

For the two NCMPs, this is the first time they are contesting in Aljunied GRC. They are replacing former chief Low Thia Khiang and Chen Show Mao, who had decided not to stand for election.

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Their PAP opponents include Victor Lye, Chua Eng Leong, Shamsul Kamar and new faces Alex Yeo and Chan Hui Yuh.

While political observers told The Business Times that WP's victory was not outside their expectations, they were surprised by the larger margin of victory, compared with 2011 and 2015.

Felix Tan, an associate lecturer from SIM Global Education (SIM GE) said: "I think what this shows is that you know The Workers' Party has really become a very strong credible opposition party in Singapore and will continue to do well in the coming years."

Tan Ern Ser, a sociologist from the National University of Singapore (NUS), said the final results reflect the fact that voters want a stronger opposition able to play the role of checks and balances alongside a strong government.

"If we extrapolate into the future, all things being equal, it is possible that the WP could be the second party in a two-party political system," he said.

Eugene Tan, law don at the Singapore Management University (SMU), believes WP's third consecutive victory in Aljunied could make it harder for the PAP to wrest it away in the next GE.

"So long as the party does a reasonably good job running the town council, as long as it remains the leading opposition party, I think it has a good chance of having Aljunied as a stronghold for an extended period of time."

But for now, winning the constituency back is just a first step for WP. Observers whom BT spoke to unanimously said one of WP's immediate priorities is to strengthen its town council and resolve issues arising from its Aljunied-Hougang Town Council lawsuit.

SMU's Prof Tan said the party may need to expend more effort to connect with its Mandarin-speaking voters.

WP's decision to not field a representative for a live televised debate in Mandarin early in the campaign had drawn criticism from some of its supporters, and SMU's Prof Tan said this was an "ill-considered move".

"This is a party that has generally been identified with the working class people, and the Chinese-speaking and dialect-speaking communities are a very important source of support for the WP, particularly after Low Thia Khiang became secretary-general in the early 90s," he said.

He noted the party had undergone a "dramatic" image change this year with a much younger slate of candidates who appear more comfortable in English than Mandarin.

"I know the Chinese-speaking ground is a shrinking one, but in tight races like Aljunied, they would need every little bit of support."

SIM GE's Dr Tan however noted that WP's results at this GE has shown that it is not just solely dependent on the personality of one person.

"It's not a Low Thia Khiang party, whereas if we look across the other political parties, they tend to have one very strong candidate and the rest of his party members just fade into oblivion," Dr Tan said.

He added that this is a lesson for all other political parties that they need not just a strong individual, but a strong team where every single candidate is strong.

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

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