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GE2020: PSP’s credible maiden showing a ‘head start’ for the future, says Tan Cheng Bock

SINGAPORE — Despite being defeated in all nine constituencies where he had fielded candidates, Progress Singapore Party (PSP) chief Tan Cheng Bock said he is proud that his one-year-old party achieved an average vote share of 40 per cent.

Dr Tan Cheng Bock and other Progress Singapore Party members gather at the party’s headquarters after the election results were announced in the early hours of July 11, 2020.

Dr Tan Cheng Bock and other Progress Singapore Party members gather at the party’s headquarters after the election results were announced in the early hours of July 11, 2020.

  • PSP chief proud to achieve average vote share of more than 40 per cent
  • Party “not deterred” as Dr Tan believes that it will go further in the next election
  • Asked if he might run again in the next GE, he said that he would “never give up”

 

SINGAPORE — Despite being defeated in all nine constituencies where he had fielded candidates, Progress Singapore Party (PSP) chief Tan Cheng Bock said he is proud that his one-year-old party achieved an average vote share of 40 per cent.

“We have caused an impact in this General Election (GE). We may not have won seats, but if we look at the level of support to PSP candidates, the average is about 40 per cent,” the 80-year-old former People’s Action Party (PAP) Member of Parliament-turned-opposition leader said. 

“An average of 40 per cent for a new party and going into all these new areas, I am actually quite proud of that performance. I think it is the beginning of a new chapter for PSP, and I think the movement that I have created will grow.”

He was addressing reporters at PSP’s headquarters in Bukit Timah Shopping Centre past 3am on Saturday (July 11), minutes after hearing the result for West Coast Group Representation Constituency (GRC) where he had contested but lost by a difference of 3.38 percentage points. PAP had secured 51.69 per cent of the vote there.

Stressing that he has made a “head start” for the future and “set the stage” in this GE, he said: “We are not deterred by this disappointment because I think the team that I have built will go further in the next election. 

“I told my men: Don’t worry. Sometimes we are defeated once. The next round, we will come back.”

PSP’S PERFORMANCE

PSP is a new political party that Dr Tan founded only last year. Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong’s estranged younger brother, Mr Lee Hsien Yang, was inducted as a member of the party a day after Parliament was dissolved on June 23, and had since been vocal in urging voters to deny PAP a super-majority in Parliament. 

But despite it being relatively new, PSP fielded the largest slate among 10 opposition parties here in GE2020, contesting 24 of 93 seats. The Workers’ Party (WP), Singapore’s leading opposition party, sent 21 candidates.

PSP’s average result for the constituencies that it had contested was just over 40 per cent. PSP’s average result for GRCs was higher, at 41.16 per cent, while its average result for SMCs was 39.08 per cent.

Here’s a breakdown of its performance at each constituency:

  • West Coast GRC: 48.31%

  • Tanjong Pagar GRC: 36.87% 

  • Chua Chu Kang GRC: 41.36% 

  • Nee Soon GRC: 38.1%% 

  • Marymount SMC: 44.96% 

  • Yio Chu Kang SMC: 39.17% 

  • Kebun Baru SMC: 37.03% 

  • Pioneer SMC: 35.24% 

  • Hong Kah North SMC: 39.02% 

The closest fight was in West Coast, where Dr Tan’s team was up against a PAP team headed by Mr S Iswaran, 58, and Mr Desmond Lee, 43. Mr Iswaran was the Minister for Communications and Information before Parliament dissolved last month, while Mr Lee, PAP’s organising secretary, was the Minister for Social and Family Development. 

On its West Coast GRC battle, Dr Tan said: “We were very close. I think we gave them a good fight.”

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YOUNGER CANDIDATES IN NEXT GE

Asked if he might run again in the next GE, he said that he would “never give up”. But he reiterated that he is only here to “set the stage” to get the right people onboard to help him build a much stronger Singapore, as he is “very disappointed with the current PAP”.

In the next GE, he hopes to field a much younger team, he said. PSP’s youngest candidate this GE was 23-year-old law undergraduate Choo Shaun Ming who contested in Chua Chu Kang GRC, but the average age of its 24 candidates this time round was 53.

When he was still campaigning last week, Dr Tan said that he would not take up a Non-Constituency Member of Parliament (NCMP) seat even if he was offered one. 

The NCMP scheme allows the “best-performing losers” among the opposition to enter Parliament. It was expanded to increase the minimum number of opposition seats in Parliament from nine to 12, and with the Workers' Party having won 10 seats in the House, there will be two seats offered to the best “losers” in the election. 

They are set to be PSP’s West Coast GRC candidates.

Dr Tan, who had been a PAP MP for 26 years, asserted on Saturday morning that he will not reconsider his decision. Repeating a stance he had stated previously, he said: “I will not take up the NCMP because I’ve been in politics for so many years. There’s no reason why I should be there.”

However, he revealed that an executive committee in the party is discussing the possibility of sending two individuals to serve that role in Parliament. The exposure would give them an understanding of how parliamentary processes are like, and how debates take place in the House, he said.

A near-miss was something Dr Tan had experienced in the 2011 Presidential Election as well. Then, Dr Tony Tan beat him by a 0.34 per cent margin and was inaugurated as the seventh President of Singapore.

When asked how he felt about losing narrowly again, Dr Tan said that he has had six “damn good elections” so he has had “no near-misses”. The Presidential Election, he said, was another matter altogether. 

He said that he would be back for the “next round, if I am still strong”. 

WHAT ANALYSTS SAY

With a vote share of about 40 per cent, which is slightly higher than the opposition’s average of 38.76 per cent, analysts said that PSP had put up a good fight, attributing much of its success to Dr Tan.

Political scientist Bilveer Singh from the National University of Singapore said: “If there was a PSP and there was no Tan Cheng Bock, I don’t think those results would be there.

“Tan Cheng Bock was the energiser. He made the difference. He was the driver, and I think the face of Tan Cheng Bock made the PSP what it is today, and I think he’s going to leave behind a very powerful legacy.”

Assoc Prof Singh said that he will be “very surprised” if Dr Tan ends up taking up an empty NCMP seat. 

Elaborating, he said: “What better way to train younger leaders than in Parliament? One of his greatest successes is in getting two PSP candidates into Parliament.”

Assistant Professor Walid Jumblatt Abdullah of Nanyang Technological University’s School of Social Sciences said that what is critical now is for Dr Tan to build PSP into a party that is more than just about himself.

“I don’t think PSP can survive in the post-Tan Cheng Bock era. If he steps down, it’s the end of PSP,” he said, adding that Dr Tan needs to now focus on building the party.

WHAT WEST COAST RESIDENTS SAY

TODAY spoke to West Coast residents on PAP’s narrow win in their constituency.

A 21-year-old who wanted to be known only as Mr Tan said that he was disappointed with the results and hopes that Dr Tan returns in the next GE. “I think a lot of us had high hopes for him in West Coast GRC… Many people must be disappointed.”

Accountant Tng Zhi Liang, 30, believes that PSP will “definitely do better” in the next GE. 

“The results were expected after all, considering that they are a one-year-old party. They have definitely done well and put up a good fight,” he said. “Based on the results, they’ll have a higher chance in the next election and maybe we’ll see them then.”

A professional in her 50s who gave her name as just Ms Catherine, and who has lived in West Coast for over 30 years, said that residents in the district have always voted strongly for PAP and she could not believe that the results were so close.

Recalling the instant when the sample count results were released, which showed that PSP had taken 48 per cent of the vote, she said that she could hear people in the surrounding flats cheering as if a football team had scored a goal.

“I wondered if the cheering was because of a close fight or because PAP won.” 

Ms Rachel Lee, a 31-year-old senior marketing executive, said that the close results are an indication that PAP will need to pay attention to some areas.

Mr Syah Hassan, 26, a security officer, said it hurts that Dr Tan had come so close to winning. “Utmost respect to Dr Tan being 80 years old and still fighting for us. Losing by that little margin again just speaks volumes of how much people regard him highly,” he added. ADDITIONAL REPORTING BY JUSTIN ONG, JANICE LIM AND LORAINE LEE

Related topics

SGVotes2020 Singapore General Election PSP Tan Cheng Bock West Coast GRC

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