Singapore

Pritam Singh leads WP to comfortable win in Aljunied GRC

Workers’ Party (WP) chief Pritam Singh led his party’s A-team to victory in Aljunied GRC in his first electoral outing since taking over the helm, retaining the five-member constituency with a significantly higher margin than in 2015.

The WP won 59.93 per cent of the vote against the PAP, which scored 40.07 per cent.

Party chairman Sylvia Lim, thanking residents on Saturday morning, teared as she said in Mandarin: “WP sincerely thanks you for giving us your trust again. Your vote speaks to how there needs to be more diversity in Parliament so that we can better fight for the rights of the people. We will do our best and work for the people.”

In 2015, it barely held on to its turf with the slimmest of margins, triggering a recount. Then, after a nail-biting wait that lasted into the wee hours of the morning after Polling Day, it was declared the winner with 50.95 per cent of votes.

In 2011, the WP’s vote share was 54.72 per cent.

The WP’s win this round is a nod to the leadership of Mr Singh, 43, who took over the reins from former chief Low Thia Khiang, 62, in 2018.

Mr Singh, speaking after Ms Lim, told voters: “Without your support, there’s very little we can do. But together, we can do a lot more for Singapore and we have to work hard for it.”

Mr Low did not contest this election, the first time he has sat one out since 1988. Besides Mr Low, fellow GRC MP Chen Show Mao, 59, also stood down.

Mr Singh thanked voters for supporting the refreshed Aljunied team “the same way you gave support to the WP team that came before us”.

The WP’s GE2020 Aljunied slate included two incumbent Aljunied GRC MPs: party chairman Sylvia Lim, 55, and Mr Faisal Manap, 45. They were joined by two former Non-Constituency MPs – Leon Perera, 49, and Gerald Giam, 42. 

It was up against a so-called “suicide squad” from the PAP, which did not include any ministers. The PAP slate was led by artificial intelligence fintech chief executive Victor Lye, 58; and included lawyer Alex Yeo, 41; marketing director Chan Hui Yuh, 44; bank executive Chua Eng Leong, 48; and Centre for Domestic Employees executive director Shamsul Kamar, 48.

Mr Lye, Mr Chua and Mr Shamsul were contesting in the GRC for the second time, while Ms Chan and Mr Yeo are new faces. 

Aljunied GRC, home to 151,007 voters, covers parts of Hougang, Paya Lebar, Serangoon Gardens, Serangoon North, Bedok Reservoir and Kaki Bukit.

In 2011, the WP made history when it won Aljunied, the first time an opposition party wrested a group representation constituency from the PAP. That year, Mr Low made a last-minute switch from his Hougang stronghold.

His decision not to stand for election this time initially sparked speculation that those who voted for the WP may no longer have a reason to do so.

In the end though, this did not dent the party’s chances. 

Instead, the WP’s message of denying the PAP a blank cheque resonated.

Mr Singh, returning to the party’s slogan “Make your vote count”, also appealed to voters to think of their own interests, saying that the Government has shown it is more responsive to people’s concerns when it loses elected seats.

To hammer home the message, he warned that there was a real risk of an opposition wipe-out.

The PAP team’s message of “bring us home” and programmes it introduced failed to gain traction.

The WP also sought to address questions over the thorny issue of the Aljunied-Hougang Town Council saga, which has stretched on since the WP took over the town council in 2011. 

While the saga is not over – a lawsuit by AHTC against its town councillors is on appeal – the party’s improved vote share suggests that the issue was not a huge factor at the ballot box.

PAP insiders in the day said that they expected an early night – meaning there would be no recount this time. 

And so it was.

GENERAL ELECTION 2020