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GE2020: SDP goes away empty-handed but makes gains in traditional haunts

SINGAPORE — It was yet another barren outcome for the Singapore Democratic Party (SDP), which lost in all five constituencies it contested during this General Election (GE). However, analysts said that the gains the party made in its vote shares in two single-seat wards signals that it is a force to be reckoned with.

GE2020: SDP goes away empty-handed but makes gains in traditional haunts

Dr Chee Soon Juan (second from left) and Dr Paul Tambyah (second from right) speaking to reporters outside the Singapore Democratic Party's headquarters in Ang Mo Kio on July 11, 2020.

  • Analysts said that the gains that SDP made in its vote shares in two single-seat wards are noteworthy
  • Dr Paul Tambyah at Bukit Panjang SMC received 46.26 per cent of the vote, a jump from the 31.62 per cent in GE2015
  • Dr Chee Soon Juan at Bukit Batok SMC received 45.2 per cent of the vote, up from the 38.77 per cent he got in a 2016 by-election
  • Analysts said that one reason for the greater support from voters was because of how PAP handled its disputes with SDP during the campaign

 

SINGAPORE — It was yet another barren outcome for the Singapore Democratic Party (SDP), which lost in all five constituencies it contested during this General Election (GE). However, analysts said that the gains the party made in its vote shares in two single-seat wards signals that it is a force to be reckoned with. 

In particular, Bukit Panjang Single Member Constituency (SMC), which was surprisingly contested by SDP chairperson Paul Tambyah, received 46.26 per cent of the vote — the highest vote share among all the constituencies that the party contested.

It was also the highest vote share won by an opposition candidate among all of the SMCs after the election results were announced early on Saturday (July 11).

Despite losing, the party’s vote share in Bukit Panjang jumped almost 15 per cent from GE2015, when its then-candidate Khung Wai Yeen received 31.62 per cent of the vote. 

Dr Tambyah, 55, lost against Mr Liang Eng Hwa, 56, from the People’s Action Party (PAP). Mr Liang was a Member of Parliament (MP) for 14 years at Holland-Bukit Timah Group Representation Constituency (GRC) before crossing over to fill the seat in Bukit Panjang after its incumbent MP, Dr Teo Ho Pin, retired.

SDP chief Chee Soon Juan, 57, similarly helped to reap a significant 6.4 per cent increase in SDP’s vote share in Bukit Batok SMC, where he contested against PAP’s Murali Pillai. Dr Chee received 45.2 per cent of the vote, up from the 38.77 per cent he garnered in a 2016 by-election against the same opponent. 

Speaking to reporters outside the party’s headquarters in Ang Mo Kio, Dr Chee said that despite coming up short this time round, the SDP team still “ran a very good campaign that focused on policy and on the issues”.

“We’re going to continue to try and see what we can begin to improve on and then come back stronger,” he said.

He also thanked voters in the various constituencies that the party contested, as well as SDP’s members and volunteers for “working tirelessly right through the campaign”.

Agreeing, Dr Tambyah, said that the party can “hold our heads up high” as it had mounted a strong campaign considering the circumstances of having an election during a pandemic, which he reiterated was a “reckless and opportunistic” decision on the part of PAP.

“As I said before, it would be a miracle if we get in, but unfortunately the miracle didn’t happen,” he said. “But we’re grateful for the experience and as Dr Chee said, I’m sure we will do better next time”.

Assistant Professor Walid Jumblatt Abdullah of Nanyang Technological University’s School of Social Sciences said that the fielding of SDP’s top guns into SMCs was a good strategy because this ensured that Dr Chee and Dr Tambyah would not be up against political office-holders.

The party also showed voters that it has a comprehensive manifesto and has fielded better-quality candidates with each election, he added, noting that the huge jump in SDP’s vote share in Bukit Panjang is definitely due to Dr Tambyah’s credibility as an infectious diseases specialist.

Dr Chee’s vote share gain could be because he has managed to rehabilitate his controversial image over the years, or that younger voters who are less familiar with his past dust-ups with the ruling party have no issues with it, he said. 

Overall, SDP took 4.45 per cent of the popular vote, up from 3.76 per cent in the last GE in 2015. 

PAP TACTICS AGAINST SDP BACKFIRED

Associate Professor Bilveer Singh, a political science professor at the National University of Singapore said that PAP’s handling of issues that came up during the hustings — such as a dispute with SDP over whether the Government had plans to raise Singapore’s population to 10 million — “eventually backfired rather than helped”.

SDP had been issued a correction direction from the Protection from Online Falsehoods and Manipulations Act (Pofma) Office over this.

Assoc Prof Singh said that the electorate likely did not want to see the anti-fake news laws evoked during an election campaign.

Agreeing, Asst Prof Walid said that the frequent use of Pofma could be seen as “high-handed” especially among younger voters.

During the election campaign period, Pofma was invoked three times. 

SDP had been particularly singled out during the hustings, the analysts noted, with PAP questioning not just the integrity of the party but also the character of its chiefs, Dr Chee and Dr Tambyah.

RESULTS IN REMAINING CONSTITUENCIES

At Holland-Bukit Timah Group Representation Constituency (GRC), the losing SDP team received 33.64 per cent of the vote. The SDP team comprised Mr Alfred Tan, 54, Dr James Gomez, 55, Ms Min Cheong, 35, and Mr Tan Jee Say, 66.

The PAP opposing team there included Dr Vivian Balakrishnam, 59, Ms Sim Ann, 45, Mr Christopher De Souza, 44, and Mr Edward Chia, 36.

Both parties had also gone head-to-head against each other in GE2015, with SDP winning 33.38 per cent of the vote then.

SDP also lost Marsiling-Yew Tee GRC, getting 36.82 per cent of the vote this year, but its vote share increased from 31.27 per cent in GE2015.

The team this round comprised Mr Bryan Lim Boon Heng, 43, Mr Damanhuri Abas, 49, Mr Khung Wai Yeen, 38, and Mr Benjamin Pwee, 52.

Again, they lost against the PAP team led by Mr Lawrence Wong, 47, who they also contested against back in 2015. Mr Wong was National Development Minister before Parliament dissolved last month.

As for Yuhua SMC, Mr Robin Low, 44, lost to the PAP incumbent, Ms Grace Fu, 56, with 29.46 per cent of the vote, an increase from 26.46 per cent back in 2015. She was Minister of Community, Culture and Youth before Parliament dissolved. ADDITIONAL REPORTING BY JUSTIN ONG

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SGVotes2020 Singapore General Election SDP Paul Tambyah Chee Soon Juan

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