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GE2020: Sengkang voters hope for new brand of politics, as WP promises ‘the hard work starts tomorrow’

SINGAPORE — In the wee hours of Saturday morning (July 11), as the final tally of votes in Sengkang Group Representation Constituency (GRC) was announced, cheers rang out from the new Housing Development Board flats in the young neighbourhood.

From left: Dr Jamus Lim, Ms Raeesah Khan and Mr Chua Kheng Wee thanking party volunteers after leaving the Workers’ Party headquarters in Geylang on July 11, 2020.

From left: Dr Jamus Lim, Ms Raeesah Khan and Mr Chua Kheng Wee thanking party volunteers after leaving the Workers’ Party headquarters in Geylang on July 11, 2020.

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  • WP won 52.13 per cent of the vote over a PAP team comprising three former political office-holders
  • Ms He Ting Ru said that they will work hard to ensure voters’ trust in them is not misplaced
  • Loss of Sengkang was “major” and PAP will strive to win it back, Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong said

 

SINGAPORE — In the wee hours of Saturday morning (July 11), as the final tally of votes in Sengkang Group Representation Constituency (GRC) was announced, cheers rang out from the new Housing and Development Board (HDB) flats in the young neighbourhood.

Residents interviewed by TODAY expressed their hope for a new brand of politics to take root in Singapore, starting from their neighbourhood where the Workers’ Party (WP) seized a historic win.

While several of them were surprised by the election results, which saw WP wresting 52.13 per cent of the votes at the GRC, others said that they had expected the opposition party’s victory, given Sengkang’s large pool of young voters and WP’s commendable performance in the hustings.

The Straits Times reported earlier that based on official data last year, more than 60 per cent of Sengkang residents are aged below 45, while more than one in 20 is younger than five. Both figures are above the national rates.

Sengkang is also a relatively new town, with its first HDB blocks having been completed in 1997.

The WP team consisted of three new faces — Associate Professor Jamus Lim, 44, Mr Louis Chua, 33, and Ms Raeesah Khan, 26 — as well as two-time election candidate He Ting Ru, 37.

Ms He Ting Ru (extreme left) leaving the Workers’ Party headquarters in Geylang on July 11, 2020. Photo: Raj Nadarajan/TODAY

They faced formidable opponents in the People’s Action Party (PAP) team, which consisted of three political office-holders. They are labour chief Ng Chee Meng, 51; Dr Lam Pin Min, 50, the former Senior Minister of State for Health and Transport; Mr Amrin Amin, 42, the former Senior Parliamentary Secretary for Home Affairs and Health, and new candidate Raymond Lye, 54, a lawyer.

WHAT IMPRESSED CONSTITUENTS

Ms Lynn Tan, a 26-year-old marketing manager who has lived in Sengkang for 21 years, said that after these results, the PAP Government may want to pay more heed to the hopes and concerns of younger voters.

“I hope that the incumbent party can hear the voice of the younger generation and that we would like to see positive change in the future with a more balanced government. I can look forward to a better future now.”

Another resident who stayed up late to watch the results was Mr Victor Ng, a private-hire car driver who was watching the live telecast on his mobile phone at the coffee shop located at Block 267 Compassvale Link with three other fellow drivers.

While not exactly young himself, the 51-year-old said that he understood the WP candidates’ popularity with younger Singaporeans, including his three children.

“I hope (the PAP) can hand over the town council properly, so that things can continue functioning like they have been,” he said. In the longer term, he would like to see WP widening its margin of victory in the constituency in the next election.

Others who live in the Rivervale area, which used to be located within the former Punggol East Single Member Constituency, similarly said that they hope the town council handover will proceed smoothly.

Sengkang GRC comprises the former single seats of Sengkang West and Punggol East, as well as the Sengkang Central ward, which was carved out of Pasir Ris-Punggol GRC.

Residents said that they are confident of the change that WP can bring, not just to their neighbourhood but to the country.

Mr Dudley Lin, 29, a data analyst who has lived most of his life in Sengkang, said that he was impressed with how WP handled setbacks during the campaign period.

“I would say I was very impressed with their poise and how they tackled issues… with authenticity and tact,” he said.

Midway through the hustings, Ms Khan was embroiled in a controversy when two police reports were made over comments that she had made on social media.

The police said on July 5 that her social media posts, which resurfaced during the hustings, were being investigated for allegedly promoting “enmity between different groups on grounds of religion or race”.

She apologised for the posts, which were made in February 2018 and May this year.

Mr Lin said: “I really look forward to them providing a stronger voice for the unheard masses, bringing up more pertinent national issues besides just about bread-and-butter ones, enhancing my GRC, and with what they have proposed in their manifesto.”

‘TOMORROW, WE START WORK’

At a media briefing after the results were announced, Ms He thanked voters for the “leap of faith” they had taken.

In a short speech from the WP headquarters, she said: “We will work hard to make sure that this trust is not misplaced… The number of young people who have come out to walk with us to volunteer, who have expressed their interests and their hope for a better future for Singapore, has really touched me.”

She added: “To the residents of Sengkang, we work for all of you. Tomorrow, we start work.”

Ms He also thanked her PAP opponents, saying that the WP team had “very interesting conversations” with them and that she looks forward to further engagements with them.

A ‘WATERSHED VICTORY’, ANALYSTS SAY

During a briefing after all the election results were announced, Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong said that he was disappointed to have lost Sengkang and described it as a “major loss”.

"I've spoken to Chee Meng and his GRC team to thank them and to encourage them to continue to serve the party and Singapore in different ways. PAP will strive to win back Sengkang GRC,” Mr Lee said.

Mr Ng told reporters during an interview at Anchorvale Link that while the results did not go the way that PAP wanted, his team was grateful to all who had helped and voted for them.

“My team and I will have to evaluate and regroup and see how we can do better in the days to come. We will spend some time looking at what is the plan for the future,” he added.

Political analyst Bilveer Singh, from the National University of Singapore’s political science department, told TODAY that the win was a “significant development” and that WP had secured a “watershed victory” overall in this election.

He noted that voters had “chosen to reject” three office-holders, including Mr Ng, who is a former Pasir-Ris Punggol MP.

“(Former WP chief Low Thia Khiang) told me once that they do not focus on specific constituencies. They work on geographical concentrations. This is the reward for geographical concentration… I think it signals something, that they have a strategy to counter electoral boundary change,” Assoc Prof Singh added.

Related topics

Sengkang GRC Singapore General Election SGVotes2020 PAP WP polling election results

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