Singapore

PAP retains Holland-Bukit Timah GRC with 66.36% of votes

This article is more than 12 months old

The People’s Action Party (PAP) has retained Holland-Bukit Timah GRC with 66.36 per cent of the votes, fending off challengers from the Singapore Democratic Party (SDP) in their third straight battle.

The PAP team led by Foreign Minister Vivian Balakrishnan, 59, last time out had earned a similar 66.6 per cent in the 2015 election, when it defeated a line-up that included SDP chief Chee Soon Juan and Professor Paul Tambyah, who is now the party’s chairman.

This time around, both parties fielded new faces. The SDP team, which got 33.64 per cent of the votes, comprised former SingFirst chief Tan Jee Say, 66, political scientist James Gomez, 55, and first-time candidates Min Cheong, a 35-year-old marketing and communications professional, and businessman Alfred Tan, 54.

Mr Edward Chia, 36, co-founder and managing director of Timbre Group, joined the incumbent PAP team that includes lawyer Christopher de Souza, 44, and Senior Minister of State Sim Ann, 45.

Much of the campaign centred around the neighbourhood of Bukit Panjang, which is made up of Bukit Panjang SMC as well as the Zhenghua and Cashew wards under Holland-Bukit Timah GRC.

Three-term MP Liang Eng Hwa, who will be handing over his Zhenghua ward to Mr Chia, found himself in a closely-watched race, which he eventually won, when Prof Tambyah was revealed to be contesting Bukit Panjang SMC in a surprise move.

In perhaps a sign of concern, members of Holland-Bukit Timah GRC’s PAP team were seen on several walkabouts with Mr Liang in Bukit Panjang over the nine-day campaign.

At risk was the continued running of a town council that serves both constituencies. If the SDP were to win either constituency, Bukit Panjang residents would be served by separate town councils managed by different political parties, and those living in other areas under Holland-Bukit Timah GRC may feel the impact too, Ms Sim had warned.

While the majority of residents in the Bukit Timah and Ulu Pandan wards live in private estates, a significant number live in smaller HDB estates that enjoy the economies of scale of being part of a much larger town council, she said.

Prof Tambyah, 55, said he and his team in Holland-Bukit Timah GRC would run the town council themselves without the additional costs of a managing agent, adding that they had heard concerns from residents such as delayed lift upgrading and fire safety issues.

Jobs and estate upgrades were the main focus of the PAP’s campaign for the 115,012 voters in Holland-Bukit Timah GRC, while the SDP’s team touted the party’s plans to suspend the goods and services tax, along with other social programmes.

The two sides also traded barbs over the course of the campaign. Dr Balakrishnan, who represented the PAP in the first televised political debate on July 1, refuted Dr Chee’s claims that the Government had mooted having a population of 10 million in Singapore and said a key plank of the SDP’s manifesto had been based on a falsehood.

Prof Tambyah said in response that the ruling party had been forced to clarify and assure Singaporeans that were no such plans. He also criticised the Government’s handling of the coronavirus pandemic.

In a letter to residents last Tuesday (July 7), the four-man PAP team issued a final salvo, accusing their opponents of fiscal irresponsibility, while highlighting plans for more green initiatives.

This drew a response from the SDP on its Facebook page, where it reiterated its plan to fund its programmes with returns from Singapore’s invested reserves and said the PAP was trying to “steal this election” by deliberately calling it during the pandemic.

Residents that The Straits Times spoke to on the campaign trail said they were turned off by the negative campaign elements on both sides, but indicated they were largely happy with their MP’s handling of municipal issues as well as the PAP’s response to the current crisis.

About 45 per cent live in private housing in a constituency that covers swathes of landed housing districts and prime condominiums, as well as public housing estates clustered around Ghim Moh and Bukit Panjang. – THE STRAITS TIMES

GENERAL ELECTION 2020