SINGAPORE – The PAP has came out on top with 51.69 per cent of the votes in a closely fought contest against the Progress Singapore Party (PSP), led by former PAP stalwart Tan Cheng Bock.
The result is a 26-point drop in the vote share for the PAP from the 2015 election, when it secured 78.57 per cent of the votes against the Reform Party.
The PSP team secured 48.31 per cent of the vote, with 138,416 total valid votes out of 146,251 votes cast.
The West Coast PAP team this time was helmed by Minister for Communications and Information S. Iswaran, 58, who has now been re-elected in six straight general elections.
He has contested all of them in West Coast GRC – which was created in 1997.
Since then, the People’s Action Party in West Coast has seen two walkovers and challenges from the Workers’ Party and the Reform Party, but has never secured less than 66.6 per cent of votes until now.
Mr Iswaran’s team this year comprised Minister for Social and Family Development Desmond Lee, 43; Ms Foo Mee Har, 54; Mr Ang Wei Neng, 53; and new candidate Rachel Ong, 47.
They were up against Dr Tan, 80; PSP assistant secretary-general Leong Mun Wai, 60; Ms Hazel Poa, 50; Mr Nadarajah Loganathan, 57; and Mr Jeffrey Khoo, 51.
Speaking to reporters in the early hours of Saturday morning (July 11) after the results, Mr Iswaran thanked the voters of West Coast GRC, and acknowledged the opposition PSP for putting up a “vigorous contest”.
More importantly, he said, the PSP presented a choice to the voters of West Coast, and gave them a chance to think about the issues, what they wanted to vote for, and “we are glad that they have chosen us”.
When asked about the small margin of victory in West Coast, Mr Iswaran said: “I think we have to go back and study the results, and understand for ourselves what are the reasons that might have accounted for this, and that’s not just at the GRC level, but it will also have to be at the party level.
“And then we will take appropriate actions, whether it’s through national policies and programmes, but also in terms of local initiatives, and we are fully committed to that.”
Dr Tan, at a separate press briefing, said that although his team did not win, he was happy to have achieved more than 40 per cent of the votes, especially in an area where the support for the PAP is strong.
“I think that’s a great achievement already. It shows that, actually, the PAP didn’t do well. It’s not a strong mandate. I don’t think the Prime Minister can be very happy about all this,” he added.
The contest between the two parties in this constituency was among the tightest contests in the election, pitting a team led by Dr Tan – a retired general practitioner – against his former party. He ran a campaign calling for greater transparency, putting workers and businesses first, and on his track record as a former PAP MP.
Dr Tan, who was making a return to his old stomping ground as an opposition candidate, is a well-known face in the area. He was a popular MP who held the Ayer Rajah seat for the ruling party for 26 years from 1980 to 2006, when his stronghold was absorbed into West Coast GRC.
However, it has been 14 years since he retired as a PAP MP, and voter profiles in the area are likely to have changed, which are among the factors that may have led to the PSP’s defeat.
The PAP team this time included a second minister after Mr Lee moved over from Jurong GRC to replace former minister Lim Hng Kiang, who retired from politics.
The PAP campaigned on creating jobs, providing employment assistance, strengthening social safety nets and initiatives for the youth and families.
Traditionally viewed as a PAP stronghold, West Coast GRC absorbed parts of Chua Chu Kang GRC and Hong Kah North SMC for this election, and was expanded from a four- to five-member constituency from the last election.
The number of voters increased 99,300 in 2015 to 146,251 this year.
West Coast GRC voter Andy Tan, 28, said he did not expect the contest to be this tight, considering how the PAP has historically won the group representation constituency by a comfortable margin.
The operations manager, who declined to say who he voted for, said: “The PSP put up a good fight, considering they have less resources and couldn’t hold physical rallies.
“The retirement of a long-serving MP like Mr Lim Hng Kiang, after serving for 29 years, may also have swayed some voters to vote for a change.”