SINGAPORE – The People’s Action Party team, led by Deputy Prime Minister Heng Swee Keat, has retained East Coast GRC with 53.41 per cent of the votes.
The PAP’s vote share is down from 2015, when it won 60.73 per cent.
Both times, it claimed victory against a team from the Workers’ Party.
The contest this time was closely watched, as the WP had fielded one of its stronger teams there since first mounting a challenge to the ruling party in the 2006 general election.
But Mr Heng’s surprise move to helm the PAP’s East Coast team on Nomination Day significantly strengthened the PAP slate. The 59-year-old moved over from Tampines GRC to replace former minister and labour chief Lim Swee Say, who announced his retirement from politics just before the start of the election campaign.
One of the hallmarks of Mr Heng’s political style is an emphasis on consultation and conversation.
He entered politics in 2011 after 27 years in the public service. In 2012, when he was Education Minister, Mr Heng launched the Our Singapore Conversation series to get Singaporeans talking about the kind of country they want to build for the future.
He was appointed Deputy Prime Minister in May 2019 and as the PAP’s first assistant secretary-general, is number two in both the Cabinet and ruling party.
A year ago, he detailed plans on how the fourth-generation political leadership team aims to work with Singaporeans in a movement they are calling Singapore Together.
And on the last day of the campaign period, he unveiled plans for a new East Coast Conversation series for residents to talk about the issues they care about.
Much of his time at the hustings was spent getting to know residents in the GRC with 121,772 registered voters. On top of his house visits, Mr Heng visited most major markets and food centres in East Coast GRC at least twice during the campaign period.
Apart from Mr Heng, the PAP’s five-member team in East Coast includes Senior Minister of State for Defence and Foreign Affairs Maliki Osman, 54; Ms Jessica Tan, 54; Ms Cheryl Chan, 44; and new face Mr Tan Kiat How, 43.
Ms Tan has been a backbencher for three terms, while Ms Chan was formerly Fengshan MP before the single-seat was taken into East Coast GRC this year, bumping up the constituency to a five-member team.
Mr Tan was formerly chief executive of the Infocomm Media Development Authority before he resigned in June to enter politics.
They were up against a slate led by lawyer Terence Tan, 49, the WP’s deputy organising secretary. His team also included Mr Dylan Ng, 44; Mr Abdul Shariff Aboo Kassim, 54; Mr Kenneth Foo, 43; and Ms Nicole Seah, 33.
In 2015, both Mr Ng and Mr Terence Tan were fielded in Marine Parade GRC, while Mr Foo ran in Nee Soon GRC.
Ms Seah, an associate director in a multinational marketing firm, has been volunteering with the WP since 2015, although she did not contest that year. She was the National Solidarity Party’s star candidate in the 2011 election.
Mr Shariff, a former researcher, is a first-time candidate.
East Coast GRC was created in 1997, when Bedok GRC was expanded to take in parts of Eunos, Marine Parade, Tampines, Changi and Aljunied. It has been contested four times so far, all by the WP.
In 2006, the PAP team won with 63.86 per cent of the vote. Its vote share dropped to 54.83 per cent in 2011, then went up to 60.73 per cent in the last general election in 2015.
During this year’s nine-day campaign, both teams were often spotted in the high-traffic heartland areas of Bedok and Simei. But they rarely crossed paths, and did not engage each other when they did.
The opposition team has reiterated that it would put up a good fight despite being surprised by Mr Heng’s move to East Coast.
The five members had run a campaign championing diversity in Parliament and “a balanced system”, among other issues. Ms Seah said it was “a bit unfair” for East Coast voters to be caught having to elect a WP team or the future prime minister.
But their opponents chose not to engage with these issues throughout the hustings. Their e-rallies focused instead on issues such as jobs for residents and a new plan for East Coast.
Mr Heng has also emphasised that Singaporeans are choosing the next government for the country in this election. He has called on voters not to be “taken in” by opposition parties’ claims of a wipeout, given that the Non-Constituency MP scheme guarantees opposition voices in Parliament.