Singapore became the first country to successfully conduct a general election during the ongoing coronavirus pandemic. Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong's motto behind the polls was to get a strong mandate so that he could lead the economic recovery and handle the fallout of the pandemic.
But he didn't get what he asked for. With 83 seats out of 93, the ruling People's Action Party (PAP) retained a supermajority in the parliament but its popular votes took a dip. However, it was a strong show from the Opposition Workers' Party (WP) which won 10 seats out of 21 seats they contested in. It was their best show in a general election since the country's independence in 1965. Dr Tan Cheng Bock-led Progress Singapore Party (PSP) came close in the West Coast GRC, but it failed to win any seats.
PAP Losing Ground on Popular Vote
For the 14th time since the city-state's independence in 1965, PAP will form the government. However, they will be worried about their decreasing vote share. The party garnered 61.24 percent of the popular vote — down by over eight percent — compared to the 2015 GE.
PAP lost the newly formed Sengkang GRC while it failed to make any impact in WP's stronghold Aljunied GRC and Hougang SMC. In Aljunied, the gap further increased to around 9 percent of the votes while in Hougang, it was 3.5 percent.
PAP lost votes even in its stronghold Ang Mo Kio. Led by Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong, the PAP team that also included Darryl David, Gan Thiam Poh, Ng Ling Ling and Nadia Ahmad Samdin, won against Reform Party with 71.97 percent of votes but lost 6.72 percent of vote-share. Reform Party's team consisted of Kenneth Jeyaretnam, Andy Zhu, Noraini Yunus, Charles Yeo and Darren Soh.
Lee said while the party got a clear mandate, it was not the strong mandate he hoped for. "We won 83 seats out of 93 and although we have a clear mandate, the percentage of the popular vote is not as high as I had hoped for and we lost one GRC. Nevertheless, the results show broad-based support for the PAP and Singaporeans understand what is at stake," he said.
DPM Heng's Narrow Escape
For Deputy PM, Heng Swee Keat, who is considered to be Lee's successor, it was a day that could turn out bad. But his team that also included Maliki Osman, Jessica Tan, Cheryl Chan and Tan Kiat How, managed to eke out a narrow win over Workers' Party line-up of Dylan Ng, Kenneth Foo, Nicole Seah, Terence Tan and Abdul Shariff Aboo Kassim with a 53.41 percent, down by 7.29.
It was a surprise move from PAP to shift Heng from Tampines GRC that could turn out be a bad one. But even in the win, it is still a warning sign for PAP and the MP-elect Heng.
Heng said his team and he would reach out to the voters of the constituency to better understand their concerns and work towards realizing the "East Coast plan, to build a more vibrant, caring, and green community".
The incumbent PM and his party will face the immediate challenge of controlling the COVID-19 outbreak and guide Singapore through the recession in the coming days.
"The work of the new government begins at once. My government will work with all of you to overcome the present health and economic crisis and emerge stronger. With the elections now behind us, let us work as one Singapore to secure lives and jobs," said Lee, who will enter his fourth administration.
WP Makes Further Inroads
WP chief Pritam Singh, prior to the GE2020, urged the voters not to give PAP a blank cheque and rather support oppositions to keep the ruling party in check. Singaporeans showcased their trust in ballots, giving WP their best result with 10 seats in the GE.
In a way, it was a minor wave of anti-incumbency that went in WP's favor. In addition, netizens poured in support for opposition candidates including WP's Sengkang candidate Raeesah Khan, who was under fire for her comments on race and religion and Jamus Lim that helped. And despite the restrictions in physical rallies due to COVID-19 pandemic, WP made gains thanks to the support of netizens on social media.
In Aljunied, a five-seat GRC, WP gained close to nine percent of vote-share to pull ahead of PAP with 59.93 percent. WP's team that consisted of Sylvia Lim, Faisal Manap, Gerald Giam and Leon Perera besides Singh beat PAP's line-up that included two new faces Alex Yeo and Chan Hui Yuh besides Victor Lye, Chua Eng Leong and Shamsul Kamar.
WP was expected to win in Hougang SMC and its candidate Dennis Tan, the party's rising star, delivered extending the lead to 61.19 percent over PAP's Lee Hong Chuang.
In the newly-formed Sengkang, it was a pleasant surprise for WP. Its young line-up that included He Ting Ru, Jamus Lim, Louis Chua and Raeesah Khan picked up the four-seat GRC with 52.13 percent vote-share. The WP team beat PAP's line-up that included three sitting MPs — Ng Chee Meng, Lam Pin Min and Amrin Amin — besides new face Raymond Lye in a tough contest.
WP could have won the East Coast GRC but fell short with 46.59 percent of vote share. "We will continue to endeavor for good outcomes on the ground and to represent you faithfully in Parliament. Without your support, there is very little we can do, but together, we can do a lot more for Singapore, and we have to work hard for it," Singh said in his speech after the result.