Opposition at a loss to explain drubbing
SINGAPORE — In a stunning victory, the People’s Action Party (PAP) romped to a landslide in the country’s 12th General Election (GE) since Independence, reversing its performance in 2011 and winning 83 out of 89 Parliamentary seats yesterday.
The ruling party improved on its showing in all constituencies, compared with the previous elections four years ago, and even wrested the Punggol East Single Member Constituency (SMC) from the Workers’ Party. In Tanjong Pagar Group Representation Constituency (GRC), which was being contested for the first time since 1991, the party won 77.71 per cent of the vote. Even in defeat, the PAP polled well: The Workers’ Party retained Aljunied GRC, but with a razor-thin 50.95 per cent majority. In winning the first GRC by an Opposition party in 2011, the WP polled 54.7 per cent of the vote. The picture was much the same in the WP’s traditional stronghold in Hougang SMC.
Some 2.3 million votes were cast in the election, which saw all constituencies contested for the first time since Singapore’s independence.
The PAP’s crushing win saw it significantly improve its vote share to 69.9 per cent — the highest since 2001 — from 60.1 per cent in 2011 GE. In more than half of the 29 constituencies contested, the PAP won by more than 70 per cent of the popular vote, with the biggest margin — 79.28 per cent — coming from Jurong GRC, which is helmed by Deputy Prime Minister Tharman Shanmugaratnam.
Shell-shocked Opposition leaders spoke of a nationwide swing towards the PAP that they struggled to reconcile with. They said the feedback and response garnered from voters made yesterday’s result a veritable bolt from the blue, and most who spoke to the media had few answers, saying they needed more time to do a post-mortem to fully comprehend what went wrong.
At a press conference that began after half past three in the morning, Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong thanked Singaporeans for the strong mandate. He added that he was particularly satisfied with recapturing Punggol East from the WP. “To Singapore, this is a great result,” he said.
“I wholeheartedly thank voters of all backgrounds and races ... without your support, we wouldn’t have such a good result. We also successfully got many young voters’ support,” Mr Lee said. “I’m very glad that our overall votes have gone up, but we won’t be complacent, because you’ve given us a great responsibility and we will continue to improve and work for the people. We will do our best and fulfil our responsibility with all our hearts ... For those who didn’t vote for us, we too need to work with you, because this is our Singapore, this is a home that belongs to everyone.”
Mr Lee also paid tribute to the PAP’s Aljunied GRC team for putting up a valiant fight. “I’m very pleased with the results ... We missed by only 0.9 percentage points, and that’s it. But next time, we will get there,” he said.
Mr Lee said he looked forward to having the elected WP candidates “coming fully prepared to engage” in Parliament for a “robust exchange on significant issues, including all the issues they’ve raised in the hustings”. He noted that the minimum wage issue was one that was raised for the first time by the WP during campaigning.
WP chief Low Thia Khiang had set a goal of at least 20 Opposition Members of Parliament to achieve what he described as a “balanced” legislature.