'PAP's victory a significant achievement'
PAP's Murali Pillai beat SDP's Chee Soon Juan despite odds stacked against winning party
After over a week of campaigning, the People's Action Party (PAP) has held on to the Bukit Batok SMC.
PAP candidate Murali Pillai, 48, won 61.21 per cent of the votes.
His opponent, Singapore Democratic Party (SDP) chief Chee Soon Juan, got 38.79 per cent.
This is a hard-fought victory, said political observers, as Mr Murali faced a slew of challenges including the single-member constituency's former MP David Ong's sudden resignation due to an alleged extramarital affair and the tendency for residents to vote for the opposition during by-elections.
The results announced late last night came with a number of records for both sides including the highest voter share for Dr Chee, 53, out of his five contests for a parliamentary seat.
His previous record was a vote share of 34.86 per cent in the 1997 General Election while contesting for MacPherson SMC.
Yesterday was also the first time since 1979 in which the PAP won a by-election for an SMC.
The previous two by-elections in Hougang SMC in 2012 and Punggol East SMC in 2013 were won by the Workers' Party.
Political observers attributed the win to Mr Murali's demeanour and track record in the SMC, which contrasts with Dr Chee's image among voters.
National University of Singapore sociologist Tan Ern Ser said: "Mr Murali has shown himself to be an earnest person with a good track record and experience with grassroots work in Bukit Batok.
"He is not loud and attention-seeking but quiet, calm and diligent.
"Dr Chee comes across as...overly eager - almost desperate - and doing his best to say the right thing.
"But an image problem remains - voters are still unsure about him and perhaps prefer a more reliable and trusted brand."
Despite the victory, yesterday's results meant a slide of about 12 percentage points in vote share for PAP.
The party won 73 per cent of the votes in the SMC during the 2015 General Election. Observers said this was due to the by-election effect.
This refers to a voting pattern during by-elections where voters tend to prefer the opposition parties since there is little threat in toppling the ruling party overnight.
Political watcher Mano Sabnani said: "There were several things stacked against PAP. There was the by-election effect, the David Ong effect and that PAP ran a relative lightweight against a heavyweight opponent - SDP's own secretary-general.
"The fact that PAP won is a significant achievement."
He also emphasised the significance of PAP fielding a minority race candidate in an SMC by-election, something the party had not done since the 1979 by-elections.
Bukit Batok SMC comprises around 74 per cent Chinese, 15 per cent Malays and 11 per cent Indians.
Mr Sabnani said: "This signals that the factor of race is diminishing in elections.
"While some might say that one swallow doesn't make a summer, it is a positive sign that the electorates are voting on the basis on the candidate's merits rather than his skin colour."
On social media, Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong congratulated Mr Murali on the victory.
Mr Lee said: "You have chosen an MP who is committed, trustworthy and will go the extra mile for you.
"Murali and his team have campaigned hard but now their real work begins. He has served faithfully in Bukit Batok for many years and, with your support, will serve residents for many more."
BY THE NUMBERS
Number of electors 25,727
Total votes cast 24,192
Rejected votes 622
Accepted votes 23,570
Chee Soon Juan (SDP) 9,142 votes (38.79%)
Murali Pillai (PAP) 14,428 votes (61.21%)
more reports » next page