Charles Chong does it again
The sample count indicated the closest of fights, a mere 2 per cent advantage for the People’s Action Party (PAP).
Supporters of the Workers’ Party (WP) crossed their fingers and prayed, but in the end, it was not meant to be — the party lost.
And with that, the PAP took back Punggol East SMC from the WP on Friday (Sept 11), which won the single member constituency in the 2013 by-election.
A hush fell over Hougang Stadium, where WP supporters had gathered, when the results were announced shortly before midnight.
Veteran MP Charles Chong won 51.76 per cent of votes, edging out incumbent Lee Li Lian’s 48.24 per cent.
Mr Chong had been MP for the Punggol East ward of the Pasir Ris-Punggol GRC before it was carved out to form a seat of its own during the last general election.
Bringing the shine back
During his victory speech yesterday, the six-term PAP veteran told supporters: “Allow me to thank you all for bringing the shine back to Punggol East.”
He then thanked Ms Lee for taking care of the constituency for the past 2 1/2 years. “I know she did her best,” he said to supporters at Bedok Stadium.
“Even though we won back (Punggol East), don’t celebrate too much,” he said, then added, “Well, maybe tonight.”
The seat was won by former Speaker of Parliament Michael Palmer of the PAP during the 2011 General Election.
But he had to step down in December 2012 when it was revealed that he was involved in an extra-marital affair.
This led to a by-election in January 2013, when Ms Lee won Punggol East with 54.50 per cent of the vote.
The Punggol East Town Council was then merged with the Aljunied-Hougang Town Council to form the WP-run Aljunied-Hougang-Punggol East Town Council (AHPETC), which has been embroiled in controversy over problems with their accounts.
Mr Chong had said at a rally on Tuesday that he intends to pull Punggol East out of the AHPETC, promising to bring independent auditors to dig into the accounts.
“As soon as our accounts are in order, I intend to get (the Ministry of National Development) to restore the grants that are due to Punggol East to improve maintenance and cleanliness in our estate,” he said.
Political watcher Mano Sabnani said that it was no surprise that Punggol East was returned to the PAP, given how there seems to have been a nationwide swing of about 8 per cent towards the PAP.
Furthermore, during the 2013 by-election, there was the by-election effect, where Singaporeans feel more secure voting for an opposition party since the Government was already in place.
“Another factor is the Charles Chong effect. He is an experienced MP and he knows the area well from when he was an MP with Pasir Ris-Punggol GRC,” Mr Sabnani said.
In 2011, Mr Chong was sent to Joo Chiat, taking over from long-time MP Chan Soo Sen and he won with a narrow margin of just 388 votes against WP’s Yee Jenn Jong.
A Punggol East resident who wanted to be known only as Madam Fu, 50, said she was happy about the PAP win.
“(But) it is still very dangerous for PAP (given the low margin). I think (the PAP team) should start visiting residents and get in touch with them to win even more votes for the next election,” she said.
Ms Lee, who gave her concession speech at about 12.40am, described her time at Punggol East as a “short but memorable one.”
She added that she would spend the next few months ensuring a proper handover of the Town Council.
She also told reporters that she will not accept the Non-Constituency Member of Parliament position because she respects the voters’ decision.
Asked for reasons for the loss, she said: “(There are) other factors which are now for me to go back and evaluate. I’m suspecting municiple issues.”