Saturday, 12 September 2015

GE2015: PAP wins big with 69.9% of vote

Nationwide swing gives PAP landslide win

9.8% point rise in vote share - PAP takes back Punggol East - WP scrapes through in Aljunied GRC
By Zakir Hussain, Deputy Political Editor, The Straits Times, 12 Sep 2015

The 2015 General Election ended yesterday with a landslide victory for the ruling People's Action Party (PAP), which swept 83 out of 89 seats in Parliament.

It won 69.9 per cent of the vote - its best performance since 2001 and a 9.8-point surge from the 60.1 per cent it got in 2011 when voters turned away from the PAP and handed a group representation constituency to the opposition.

"It's a good result for the PAP, but it is an excellent result for Singapore," Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong said at a 3.30am press conference today after all the results were announced.

He thanked voters and said: "These election results show that Singaporeans understand what is at stake - that we can prosper only if we stay united and that we need to get the best team possible assembled in order to serve Singapore.

"The results are also an endorsement of the policies and the performance of the PAP Government."

#GE2015 Press Conference
Thank you Singaporeans for the strong mandate to take Singapore further forward. This result could only have been possible with your strong support. I am deeply humbled by your confidence. It is a heavy responsibility; my team and I will work hard with all of you to build a bright future for every Singaporean. - LHL#GE2015
Posted by Lee Hsien Loong on Friday, September 11, 2015

As results streamed in through the night, PAP candidates across Singapore kept romping home by wide margins, many winning well over 70 per cent of the vote. The best score of 79.28 per cent came from Jurong GRC, where the PAP team was led by Deputy Prime Minister Tharman Shanmugaratnam.

PAP veteran Charles Chong, 62, scored the party's sweetest win when he took back Punggol East SMC from Ms Lee Li Lian who had won the seat for the Workers' Party in a 2013 by-election.

The WP was the largest opposition party with 28 candidates, but performed well below the expectations of political observers who had predicted "hot contests" in East Coast GRC, Marine Parade GRC, and Fengshan SMC. The PAP beat the WP comfortably in all three.

Aside from losing Punggol East, the WP retained the five-member Aljunied GRC by a whisker. Its PAP opponents proved they were no suicide squad, and called for a recount.

The Aljunied result - the last of the night - was announced at around 3am with the WP winning with just 50.95 per cent of the vote, down from 54.7 per cent in 2011.

The WP saw its vote share slip by 6.83 points, which analysts attributed to concerns over lapses in accounting and governance at Aljunied-Hougang-Punggol East Town Council (AHPETC), which PAP leaders had surfaced recently.

This election was the most keenly contested since independence, with 181 candidates for 89 seats. The next Parliament will have six elected opposition MPs and three Non-Constituency MPs drawn from among the best-performing candidates who lost.

The PAP's exceptional showing - Mr Lee's best since becoming PM in 2004 - came four years after an opposition tide and discontent over a number of hot-button issues saw the PAP's share of the popular vote drop from 66.6 per cent in 2006 to 60.1 per cent in 2011.

Political observers said the PAP's strong performance showed that voters had noted how the Government responded to the 2011 setback by embarking on aggressive policy measures to address grievances in such areas as housing, immigration, transport and healthcare.

They also felt the PAP was helped by the feel-good factor from Singapore's Golden Jubilee celebrations. Founding prime minister Lee Kuan Yew's death in March had also served to remind Singaporeans of how far Singapore had come over the past 50 years. And the PAP's narrative over the nine-day campaign - that this election was about the nation's future plans and leadership - clearly hit home.

What went down overnight for the historic #GE2015: Minister Lee Hsien Loong calls the results "excellent" for Singapore:
Posted by Channel NewsAsia Singapore on Friday, September 11, 2015

PAP leaders, many of whom were themselves surprised at the scale of the swing, expressed humility at the big win. Mr Tharman said at Jurong West Stadium: "We are humbled by voters' trust in us and faith in our plans, and we'll work very hard to take it forward."

He pledged to do so by "continuing to listen, by being open to all ideas, by checking ourselves when we make mistakes, and correcting them as well as we can, and to be Singaporeans together".

Labour chief Chan Chun Sing led the PAP team in Tanjong Pagar GRC - not contested since it was formed in 1991 - to a 77.71 per cent win against a team from the Singaporeans First party.

Speaking at 3am, WP chief Low Thia Khiang congratulated the PAP on its strong mandate but reminded the ruling party to uphold the trust people had placed in it.

PM Lee also called on Singaporeans to unite and work together to take the country forward, adding: "The elections are over, but our work has just begun."

Opposition at a loss to explain drubbing
‘Perfect convergence of factors’ allows ruling party to reverse performance in 2011 election
By Loh Chee Kong, TODAY, 12 Sep 2015

In a stunning victory, the People’s Action Party (PAP) romped to a landslide in the country’s 12th General Election (GE) since Independence, reversing its performance in 2011 and winning 83 out of 89 Parliamentary seats yesterday.

The ruling party improved on its showing in all constituencies, compared with the previous elections four years ago, and even wrested the Punggol East Single Member Constituency (SMC) from the Workers’ Party. In Tanjong Pagar Group Representation Constituency (GRC), which was being contested for the first time since 1991, the party won 77.71 per cent of the vote. Even in defeat, the PAP polled well: The Workers’ Party retained Aljunied GRC, but with a razor-thin 50.95 per cent majority. In winning the first GRC by an Opposition party in 2011, the WP polled 54.7 per cent of the vote. The picture was much the same in the WP’s traditional stronghold in Hougang SMC.

Some 2.3 million votes were cast in the election, which saw all constituencies contested for the first time since Singapore’s independence.

The PAP’s crushing win saw it significantly improve its vote share to 69.9 per cent — the highest since 2001 — from 60.1 per cent in 2011 GE. In more than half of the 29 constituencies contested, the PAP won by more than 70 per cent of the popular vote, with the biggest margin — 79.28 per cent — coming from Jurong GRC, which is helmed by Deputy Prime Minister Tharman Shanmugaratnam.

Shell-shocked Opposition leaders spoke of a nationwide swing towards the PAP that they struggled to reconcile with. They said the feedback and response garnered from voters made yesterday’s result a veritable bolt from the blue, and most who spoke to the media had few answers, saying they needed more time to do a post-mortem to fully comprehend what went wrong.

At a press conference that began after half past three in the morning, Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong thanked Singaporeans for the strong mandate. He added that he was particularly satisfied with recapturing Punggol East from the WP. “To Singapore, this is a great result,” he said.

“I wholeheartedly thank voters of all backgrounds and races ... without your support, we wouldn’t have such a good result. We also successfully got many young voters’ support,” Mr Lee said. “I’m very glad that our overall votes have gone up, but we won’t be complacent, because you’ve given us a great responsibility and we will continue to improve and work for the people. We will do our best and fulfil our responsibility with all our hearts ... For those who didn’t vote for us, we too need to work with you, because this is our Singapore, this is a home that belongs to everyone.”

Mr Lee also paid tribute to the PAP’s Aljunied GRC team for putting up a valiant fight. “I’m very pleased with the results ... We missed by only 0.9 percentage points, and that’s it. But next time, we will get there,” he said.

Mr Lee said he looked forward to having the elected WP candidates “coming fully prepared to engage” in Parliament for a “robust exchange on significant issues, including all the issues they’ve raised in the hustings”. He noted that the minimum wage issue was one that was raised for the first time by the WP during campaigning.

WP chief Low Thia Khiang had set a goal of at least 20 Opposition Members of Parliament to achieve what he described as a “balanced” legislature.

In the end, the party wound up with its representation in Parliament cut by one, to six. After the final result — for Aljunied GRC, which had a recount — was announced, Mr Low said a lot of people, including the PAP itself, did not expect the “massive swing” of votes.

He was asked whether the WP’s weaker showing could be due to the financial management lapses at the Aljunied-Hougang-Punggol East Town Council, which the PAP had brought up during the hustings. In response, Mr Low said he was “not able to assess conclusively”, but noted that the vote swing was across the board, and did not affect only the constituencies that WP was contesting in.

“We could have lost our seats, given that massive swing of (about) 10 percentage points, and we won (in Aljunied GRC),” he said. WP chairman Sylvia Lim pointed out that the swing was less than four percentage points in Aljunied GRC.

Nevertheless, Hougang MP Png Eng Huat, who successfully defended his seat, felt that the AHPETC issue had an impact “to a certain extent”. “But we have done our best ... We have been rushing our accounts (to get them ready),” he said.

Mr Low said he was satisfied with his party’s performance. “I wish to congratulate the PAP (for having) a strong mandate to configure the fourth generation of leaders and I hope they will do well to secure the future of Singapore,” he said. “What I want to remind the PAP is this: It is important to build trust between the people and the national institutions ... including the civil service, the judiciary, and the mainstream media.”

Adding that he hoped the PAP would reflect on this issue, Mr Low said: “They have to ... not only act fairly but to be seen to act fairly ... I think it is important for the future of Singapore ... Any politicisation of these institutions to gain political advantage, to me, is against the national interest.”

There will be three Non-Constituency MPs in the next Parliament. WP candidate and former Punggol East MP Lee Li Lian, who was the best loser, said she would not be taking up the NCMP seat. “I should give this chance to my other WP colleagues. We really have some good people who deserve the slot,” she said on Facebook.


This election was the most intensely fought in Singapore’s history, with a record 181 candidates vying for 89 seats in Parliament. In all, eight Opposition parties took part in the polls, which also saw the return of independent candidates for the first time since the 2001 GE.

Former Foreign Affairs Minister George Yeo, whose team in Aljunied lost to the WP in 2011, took to Facebook to express his surprise at the result. “Amazing landslide for the PAP. Singapore crosses a watershed,” said the chairman and executive director of Kerry Logistics Network.

Political scientist Lam Peng Er, from the National University of Singapore’s East Asia Institute, went as far as describing the results as a “PAP electoral tsunami” that surprised even the ruling party’s supporters.

Dr Lam cited a “perfect convergence of factors” including the death of founding Prime Minister Lee Kuan Yew and the celebrations of the country’s 50th anniversary of Independence. He said the PAP had been on “campaign mode” for the past four years, rolling out policies to address voter dissatisfaction on issues such as housing, foreign workers and transport, which led to a large swing against it in the 2011 GE. “The PAP has been responding in a concerted and aggressive manner to address issues which Singaporeans have,” he said.

Dr Felix Tan of SIM Global Education said the PAP campaign could be deemed a success. The results “clearly demonstrate that Singaporeans believe that the PAP has made significant efforts to ensure that they place resident needs above populist demands”, he said.

“The PAP campaign strategy this time, besides highlighting the problems of AHPETC, has been to remind Singaporeans of the good things that the party has done and can do, despite some setbacks,” he added. “Singaporeans have given a huge boost to the PAP to lead the country forward, at least for the next five years. This will mean that there will be some level of stability and continuation of the PAP policies thus far.”


Silent majority's roar of support for PAP
Big vote swing to the party came in what has been an exceptional year
By Chua Mui Hoong, Opinion Editor, The Straits Times, 12 Sep 2015

When the silent majority in Singapore speaks, it roars.

Voters gave the People's Action Party 69.86 per cent of valid votes cast, up from 60.14 per cent in 2011, a swing of 9.72 percentage points. The PAP secured 83 of 89 seats, up from 80 in 87 in the last Parliament.

The Sept 11, 2015 General Election was not meant to be a watershed one. Many people expected a status quo election, with the vote share and seats in Parliament hovering around the 2011 levels.

Online, and among the intelligentsia, the opposition was expected to entrench its position. As Singaporeans First's party leader Tan Jee Say said candidly in a press conference at 1am, the swing back to the PAP went against against all the feedback he had received.

Expected hot-seat contests fizzled out. Concern about pro-opposition first-time voters proved overblown. Instead, voters showed their disapproval of the Workers' Party, reducing its vote share to 39.8 per cent from 46.6 per cent, and returning one of its wards, Punggol East, to the PAP.

The PAP's vote share was above 70 per cent in six out of 13 single-seat wards, and nine out of 16 group representation constituencies (GRCs). All over Singapore, as the results from sample counts started streaming in after 9pm, and as they were confirmed by actual vote counts past midnight, people asked: Why? What accounts for the large swing back to the PAP?

In the absence of hard data, it is impossible to offer solid answers. Instead, here's a first-cut analysis.

First, the straightforward answer: The vote swing reflects Singaporeans' backing of the PAP because it remains the party they consider best able to deliver a good government.

If so, then GE2011 was the equivalent of a hissy fit from voters unhappy over rising costs, infrastructure overloads and immigration. Now that the issues are being fixed, the electorate is prepared to return to the PAP's embrace. This is borne out by the uniformly strong showing across the country.

Second, the nationalistic factors. Singapore celebrated its Jubilee year just last month. The death in March of Singapore's founding prime minister Lee Kuan Yew also unleashed a wave of patriotic fervour and reminded Singaporeans of the centrality of Mr Lee's party, the PAP, to Singapore's progress. A sense of solidarity this exceptional year might explain the swing.

Third, the personal popularity of Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong, who has been central to the PAP's campaign, with posters of his face everywhere. He urged voters repeatedly to back his team who will form the core of the next generation of leaders. Mr Lee led his Ang Mo Kio GRC team to the second-highest win among all constituencies at 78.6 per cent. Mr Lee thanked voters for the very strong result, and said he was humbled by it. "Tomorrow will be better than today. SG100 will be better than SG50," he said.

Fourth, the flight to safety thesis.

The last time the PAP won such high margins was in 2001, as an economic downturn loomed in the wake of the Sept 11 terrorist attacks in the United States. Voters gave the PAP 75.3 per cent then.

In all the other elections from 1988 to 2011, the PAP got between 60.1 and 66.6 per cent. By the 1990s, many predicted that the days of the PAP winning 70 per cent and above were over for good, barring exceptional circumstances.

This election, the 2.3 million voters put the lie to that idea - but this was an exceptional year. They went to the 832 polling stations across the island amidst a haze that reached unhealthy PSI levels of 150 to 160, an atmospheric reminder of Singapore's position as a small city-state surrounded by larger unpredictable neighbours.

Yesterday was also the anniversary of the Sept 11 terrorist attacks in 2001.

Meanwhile, the past weeks' news has been full of China's stock market and currency gyrations, and a likely slowdown in China, Singapore's biggest export destination. Several banks have cut Singapore's full-year growth forecast as a result. As Singapore heads into an uncertain global economy, business-minded voters are likely to prefer a tested party.

Fifth, the parties' track record since GE2011. Both the PAP and WP had four years to woo voters.

The PAP pulled out all stops in a fast-paced programme of policy reform that tackled infrastructure shortages in transport and housing. It tightened the tap on foreign worker growth, and ramped up subsidies to the low- and middle-income groups in the areas of healthcare, childcare, housing, and for the elderly.

As for the WP, it has managed to attract individual candidates with good academic credentials to stand for election - although none of the new candidates won seats.

But as a party, it failed to win the confidence of voters, with its opaque management of town council finances. Support slid even in WP strongholds Hougang (from 62.1 to 57.69 per cent) and Aljunied GRC (54.7 to 50.95 per cent).

But the WP held on to its position as the leading opposition party. Its 39.75 per cent vote share puts it ahead of the Singapore Democratic Party (31.23 per cent). Smaller parties got below 30 per cent, with the Reform Party getting 20.6 per cent in the wards it contested.

Sixth, the result might simply reflect a pushback from those who feel that Singapore needs a stronger PAP more than it needs a stronger opposition at this point.

Unlike in the United States or Britain, not many Singapore voters identify with particular political parties and many do not vote according to political party lines. Anecdotal stories suggest that many are conditional voters, switching their vote each election. Some may have voted PAP this time, for fear of too large a swing to an immature opposition.

If so, then the large swing should be read less as a vote of contentment with the PAP, or representing a diminished desire for elected opposition MPs in Parliament. Instead, it is more akin to a tactical retreat by opposition supporters, to back the PAP on its path of moderate reform, while spurring the fragmented and substandard opposition into doing better.

Perhaps voters took to heart what PM Lee urged: Vote for the PAP to make the opposition work harder.

Even as it celebrates a well-deserved victory, the PAP should beware of one thing : returning to its top-down, arrogant ways that caused it to lose support in Ge2011.

As Singapore voters have shown over the decades, favour once given, can be withdrawn.

And it's a wrap. Here are some handy cards for your reference. Catch up on our live blog ( or Twitter ( for more.
Posted by The Straits Times on Friday, September 11, 2015

Workers' Party hit by national swing towards ruling party
While sec-gen Low downplays vote share drop, it will need to devise new strategies
By Chong Zi Liang, The Straits Times, 12 Sep 2015

The Workers' Party (WP), from its top echelon to its rank-and-file volunteers, was completely blindsided by the election results.

Indeed, at the end of the party's final rally at Bedok Stadium on Wednesday night, packed with supporters chanting the party's name, an insider close to the leadership told The Straits Times: "The voice for change is louder than in 2011. There won't be any Non-Constituency MPs in the next Parliament."

What went wrong for the WP?

One could simply be over-confidence. Sources say that the incumbents did not do much campaigning in Aljunied itself, thinking that the ward was in the bag.

In the run-up to Polling Day, candidates and activists alike shared with The Straits Times that the ground was sweet. Interactions with residents gave positive signs that there was a good chance to win in Fengshan SMC, East Coast GRC and possibly other constituencies too.

Thinking to build on this, party bigwigs took time to walk the ground in East Coast GRC and Fengshan to support their candidates.

Another factor could simply be lingering worries over the finances of Aljunied-Hougang-Punggol East Town Council (AHPETC).

The WP-run town council has been faulted for financial and governance lapses and People's Action Party (PAP) leaders have accused the WP of incompetent management of the town council.

The campaign against AHPETC started way before the General Election and during the first few days of campaigning, the PAP took aim at the WP, questioning the integrity of the leaders. WP leaders maintained that there was no wrongdoing and challenged the PAP to produce evidence of corruption.

But it is hard to say if the PAP strategy worked.

Candidates consistently said few residents questioned them over the town council's accounts. Similarly, most voters interviewed by The Straits Times said AHPETC did not figure at the top of their concerns when deciding who to cast their ballots for.

The biggest factor that helped the PAP cause in Aljunied was probably national and not local.

There were the feel-good effects from Singapore's 50th birthday celebrations as well as the death of founding prime minister Lee Kuan Yew, something PAP leaders have campaigned on in the nine days.

Both sides agreed the large voter turnout in support of the PAP was a decisive factor in the Aljunied battle.

Former Cabinet minister Lim Boon Heng, who advised the PAP team in Aljunied, said that the swing towards the PAP is an endorsement of the policies that it has implemented over the past few years.

"Some of these policies weren't so apparent prior to 2011 but it's become clearer to people that the Government is moving in the right direction. This swing tells the PAP leadership that it's doing the right thing. And of course this helped us in Aljunied," he said.

WP secretary-general Low Thia Khiang also agreed, but gave a different spin on the numbers.

For one thing, even though the WP lost a seat in Punggol East, he believed that WP managed to hang on to Aljunied GRC because it enjoyed strong support among voters.

"You win, you lose, that's part and parcel of life," said Mr Low, early this morning after his victory speech. "If you look at the result, it's a massive swing. The WP has done pretty well."

A look at the overall numbers supports this idea that WP still managed to retain its voters from the last GE. In this General Election, the ruling party's vote share went up to 69.9 per cent, a 9.8 percentage point improvement from 2011, when it scored its worst showing since independence.

The WP garnered 39.8 per cent of votes in the areas it stood in, a 6.8 percentage point slide.

There is still a considerable distance between the WP and the next best performing opposition party, the Singapore Democratic Party.

One question that the WP will have to answer is whether to take up the Non-Constituency MP posts that will be offered to it as Fengshan, Punggol East and East Coast had the best losing scores.

If the party takes up those posts, that would ensure nine opposition MPs - six elected and three NCMPs - with all of them from the WP.

That would give the party a decently strong platform to showcase its emerging leaders such as East Coast candidates Leon Perera and Daniel Goh.

In the meantime, WP will have to go back to the drawing board and figure out how to bounce back from this setback.

#GE2015: What led to landslide win for the PAP? Kiss92 FM's Arnold Gay, ST managing editor Ignatius Low and ST political desk's Francis Chan discuss
Posted by The Straits Times on Friday, September 11, 2015

Quiet transformation of the PAP
By Lydia Lim, Associate Opinion Editor, The Straits Times, 12 Sep 2015

The People's Action Party has turned back the pro-opposition tide, demonstrating that its sterling track record and responsiveness to voter anger at the last polls are a winning combination in the face of rising contestation.

The close to 10 percentage point swing in its favour from 2011 also affirms the popularity of Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong, its general and poster boy, who took a risk by putting himself front and centre of the campaign.

His was the smiling face on PAP posters islandwide.

His was the wefie that voters queued to snap as he walked the ground in Ang Mo Kio GRC and opposition-held Aljunied GRC, which the PAP came close to winning back.

Now that the results are in, it is clear that the boost to Mr Lee's personal standing has been huge.

In his third election as PAP chief, Mr Lee has secured his strongest mandate yet of 69.9 per cent - up from 60.1 per cent in 2011 and 66.6 per cent in 2006.

At the post-result press conference, a smiling Mr Lee described it as a good result for the PAP and an excellent one for Singapore, with strong support from voters across all ages and races.

But in the lead-up to these polls, the outlook for the PAP was hazy. Some said the best the party could hope for was to slow a steady decline in electoral support amid a changed political landscape dubbed "the new normal".

The election's timing was seen as opportunistic, an attempt to ride on patriotic fervour stirred by the death of Mr Lee Kuan Yew in March and celebrations of the nation's Golden Jubilee.

Earlier this week, the Economist Intelligence Unit forecast that "the patriotic fervour that the party seems to be relying on is not likely to boost its vote share by much".

So how did PM Lee and his team in white pull off the improbable?

First, it could be that one of the biggest political transformations of the last four years was also the least visible, and had at its centre not the Workers' Party - on which many eyes were focused - but the PAP.

Think back to the watershed general election of May 2011. The PAP embarked on some serious soul-searching in the wake of its shock loss of Aljunied GRC and three office holders, including then-Foreign Minister George Yeo.

Six months after that, in November 2011, Mr Lee pledged at the party's convention a "new PAP for a new era". This new PAP would correct policy shortcomings, like in housing, and do more to take care of not just the elderly and the needy, but also the middle-income group.

It would overhaul its outreach strategy and consult Singaporeans more actively. Within the party, decision-making would be more decentralised. Activists and MPs would be more empowered to reflect people's views, while ministers would have to work harder to build political support for tough policies.

The party would also become more "tactical" - by tracking and countering opposition moves on all fronts.

Since then, policy change in areas such as housing and the Government's much-touted shift to the left have made headlines.

But changes in how the PAP reaches out to residents on the ground have taken place more quietly, yet they are no less important. Suffice it to say that many voters now find the men and women in white less arrogant and more willing to listen than before.

As secretary-general, Mr Lee deserves credit for leading this renewal of a 60-year-old party that had been at risk of losing its connection with voters.

It is striking that in this campaign, PM Lee has appealed directly to voters to "please support me and my team". Leadership renewal, he said, was the most important issue, not doing more or spending more as some might like voters to believe.

At a lunchtime rally midway through the campaign, Mr Lee said the nucleus of the PAP's fourth-generation leadership was "starting to come together, but I need more, you need more, Singapore needs more".

As it turns out, Singaporeans agree. In their view, the PAP under Mr Lee remains by far the best team to take the country forward. They have given him a very strong mandate and another five years to test and train his team of leaders who must govern in a new era of growing political competition.

Now, with his hand strengthened, what direction does PM Lee intend to lead his party in?

He gave an indication at his press conference early this morning, reminding his team of MPs that they have been elected to serve the people, that they are trustees and stewards who must take care of Singapore - and account for their performance at the next polls.

On the desire for more diverse voices, the PAP Government has been engaging Singaporeans directly and will redouble its efforts, he said, while preserving unique strengths, including an ability to contain populist pressure while responding to popular needs.

Large swings in support from one election to the next are perhaps a new norm, depending on how voters assess the PAP's performance in the previous term. That Mr Lee chose to highlight to his team the need to face voters every five years is a clear signal to them that in the new PAP, there is no room for complacency.

Picture of dejection in WP supporters' camp
By John Lui, Film Correspondent, The Straits Times, 12 Sep 2015

This is where I have trouble with people who want to change the government of Singapore: They tend to be the ones who have gained the most from it.

Mr S. Ho is a semi-retired commodities trader who has sent two children to Australia to study, which is where they have chosen to settle. "They cannot stand it here. Who can?" he says. I want to say us, for one, and a few million others. But he goes on to other issues.

The dismal results for the opposition last night have the 64-year-old grandfather and two of his friends, both men who look to be in their 60s, shaking their heads and saying "jia lat", that useful Hokkien phrase that expresses that peculiar mix of regret and resignation that overcomes a person when all is lost.

These old friends from various parts of Singapore have come here to Hougang Stadium, the assembly point for Workers' Party supporters.

The new sample count system is wrecking the mood here, at 10pm. Mr Ronald Lee, a 33-year-old engineer, is trying to keep his chin up.

"This is like football. It's not over until the end of the match," he says. There is bravado in his voice, but his face tells me the opposite.

Older Chinese-speaking people are confused by the English news broadcast of the sample counts projected on the big screen. What? they ask. They have the results already? People around them do hasty translations.

The trio of grey-haired men grimace when they hear about independent candidates losing their deposits. "This round, they all thought they had a chance. Tikam-tikam," says one of them, choosing the Malay word for placing a bet.

He crosses his arms and squares his shoulders, as if bracing himself for more bad news. 

"Singaporeans are not politically aware," he says several times, like a mantra, as the results come in. Like Mr Ho, he stares at the big screen crossly.

The night goes on, and the results of the opposition retreat roll in like an icy tide. The blare from the speakers in the stadium resonates well outside the carpark. Rarely has so much bad news been broadcast to so many with so many decibels.

Despite the flagging spirits, pockets within the crowd of 5,000 remain upbeat, holding up their blown-up hammers (the symbol of the WP), blowing whistles and yelling cheers well past midnight.

After a long conversation with Mr Ho, in which he details the horrendous state of everything, starting with the education system and ending with me, a drone of the suppressed media, he explains why a man like him, living in a landed home, with two children given an overseas education, wants to swop out the government.

Things are not like they used to be. The system he enjoyed is not what his children and grandchildren will inherit if they had stayed. The dice are loaded against them.

Does he have hope for Singapore after this election, I ask him and his friends. After their long list of ills plaguing the governance of this nation, they sound horribly pessimistic, as if they would wake up tomorrow to see smoking ruins. Do they have any hope?

They think about it.

One of Mr Ho's friends finally says something. "I don't dislike the PAP. I dislike their policies. And tomorrow, when the GST is 10 per cent, don't look at me," he says.

Somehow, I can tell he dislikes the PAP.

GE2015: Vote swing

For PAP, the numbers hark back to 2001 polls showing
Its 69.86% share of national vote is highest since that election; vote swing is also party's first gain since then
By Janice Heng, The Straits Times, 12 Sep 2015

Far from proving a continuation of 2011's downward trend for the ruling party, the numbers for the 2015 General Election recall 2001 instead - and not just because of the Sept 11 connection.

For a start, the People's Action Party's (PAP) 69.86 per cent share of the national vote is the highest since the 2001 elections.

That was when then Prime Minister Goh Chok Tong saw his party take 75.3 per cent, amid a national and global climate of uncertainty.

The 9.72 percentage point swing towards the PAP is also the party's first gain since 2001 - and just shy of its 10.3 percentage point gain then.

Similarly, the PAP's sky-high margins in its best-performing group representation constituencies this year were last seen in 2001.

Deputy Prime Minister Tharman Shanmugaratnam's Jurong GRC team were the best performers in this election - marking the first time ever that the PAP's highest vote share was clinched in a GRC.

Mr Tharman's five-member team took 79.28 per cent of the vote against a team fielded by new opposition party SingFirst.

The last comparable performances were in 2001, when the PAP team in Jurong GRC - which included Mr Tharman, in his maiden elections - took 79.75 per cent of the vote against a Singapore Democratic Party (SDP) team.

That year, the PAP also took 79.74 per cent in the now-defunct Hong Kah GRC, and did even better in several single seats.

The PAP's stellar 2001 performance is generally attributed to a "flight to safety" on the part of voters, amid economic doldrums and global insecurity following the Sept 11 terror attacks in the US.

Political observers said 2015's result is likely to arise partly from more positive sentiments.

Many pointed to policy improvements made since 2011 in areas such as transport and housing.

The national outpouring of emotions upon the death of founding Prime Minister Lee Kuan Yew in March as well as the jubilation surrounding Singapore's jubilee are also seen to have contributed.

Nonetheless, a "flight to safety" may have occurred this time as well.

Said National University of Singapore sociologist Tan Ern Ser: " I think voters still want a PAP government given that the external environment is quite hazardous."

Voters may have been exercising caution in another sense, he added: "Perhaps, voters were concerned about causing a freak election too."

During the campaign, the PAP had often brought up the spectre of a freak result in which voters could end up handing over more seats to the opposition than they intended.

Observers, politicians and voters alike had also been prepared for much closer fights. That "sense of foreboding" might have driven swing voters towards PAP, said Singapore Management University associate professor of law Eugene Tan.

The needle also swung back for the opposition parties, whose gains from the 2011 elections were largely wiped out. The opposition front runner, the Workers' Party, took 39.75 per cent of the valid votes across the 28 seats that it contested.

This was 6.83 percentage points down from its record high of 46.6 per cent in 2011, though still higher than the WP's previous outings.

"Looking at the national swing, WP has done pretty well in Aljunied in limiting that swing," said former Nominated MP Siew Kum Hong.

In contrast, with veteran opposition leader Chiam See Tong not contesting this election, the Singapore People's Party saw its vote share plummet by 14.34 percentage points. It took 27.08 per cent of the valid votes in seats contested.

The Singapore Democratic Party (SDP) did not fare as badly. Though it did not match its 2011 vote share of 36.8 per cent, it suffered a relatively smaller swing of 5.53 percentage points. SDP's 31.23 per cent share of the valid votes in seats contested makes it the second-best performing opposition party.

"In the context of the national swing, it's pretty creditable. It speaks of Dr Chee and Dr Tambyah's performance," said Mr Siew, referring to party leader Chee Soon Juan and his teammate in Holland-Bukit Timah GRC, Dr Paul Tambyah.

'Flight to safety gave PAP big boost'
Analysts also cite sentiment from Mr Lee's death and SG50 celebrations
By Chia Yan Min, Janice Heng and Walter Sim, The Straits Times, 12 Sep 2015

The significant swing in favour of the People's Action Party (PAP) in yesterday's polls surprised analysts, who said the party likely benefited from a "flight to safety" among voters.

The PAP was likely also helped by lingering sentiment from founding Prime Minister Lee Kuan Yew's death in March, as well as the jubilee year celebrations, they said.

Yesterday's polls yielded a 9.8 percentage point gain for the PAP, compared with the 2011 General Election. This was the largest such move since the 2001 elections,when there was a 10.3 percentage point swing.

Singapore Management University law professor Eugene Tan said there was a "sense of foreboding that Singapore might wake up to a different reality".

"Everyone was talking about how the tables were going to be turned on the PAP, and this made the middle-ground voters decide that, maybe, they should go for the tried-and-tested brand," he added.

S. Rajaratnam School of International Studies' Associate Professor Alan Chong said the PAP sent a strong message about its track record in the final few days on the hustings, and this made an impact on voters worried about an increasingly uncertain global outlook.

"Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong encouraged voters to think about the last 50 years, as well as about the very uncertain external situation now. This played to the PAP's advantage," he said.

Social media had been abuzz about the opposition's strong prospects in the run-up to the elections and on the hustings.

But former Nominated MP Siew Kum Hong said factors such as Mr Lee Kuan Yew's death and the SG50 celebrations still made a difference for a significant segment of Singaporeans.

"If you exclude that portion of the population that are all fired up about the elections and that are very active on the Internet, then there's a very big group of Singaporeans who were not so active, not so vocal, and maybe for them, these factors did make a difference," he said.

The general trend towards more opposition voices could have been overwhelmed by these factors, Mr Siew added.

"But maybe there is no such trend. Maybe there is a demand for the PAP to be responsive (and not necessarily for more opposition per se)."

Associate Professor Tan said the PAP can interpret the results as a "resounding endorsement of what they have been doing over the last four years, and to a certain extent over the last 50 years", as well as voters' response to the party's more consultative style of engagement.

Prof Chong said the Workers' Party's (WP) performance - while weaker than some pundits had expected - is still a "silver lining" for the opposition.

"They managed to hold on to roughly the same percentage in Aljunied and Hougang. This shows they have been working hard," he said.

"When the losing candidates in Marine Parade said they will build more inroads in the coming years, they will. Success in elections requires sustained cultivation on the ground and that is how the WP won Aljunied and Hougang."

The WP's inability to win another constituency means that there is still space for other parties, said Mr Siew.

For instance, the Singapore Democratic Party's vote share - which came in at 31.23 per cent - fell only slightly from the previous election.

"In the context of the national swing, it's pretty creditable. It speaks to Dr Chee (Soon Juan) and Dr (Paul) Tambyah's performance," he added.

GE2015: A strong mandate for a changed PAP
Party now in a more confident position to meet expectations of Singaporeans and win their trust
By Han Fook Kwang, Editor-at-large, The Straits Times, 12 Sep 2015

The People's Action Party's (PAP) impressive gains in this General Election (GE) stemmed from a hard-earned effort.

The last four years have not been easy and showed what it takes to pull off such a verdict from the people.

If the party had slackened and failed to deliver on some of the policy areas that it worked so hard on - immigration, public housing and transport - the swing in its favour might not have been so large.

And if its candidates had not worked as hard to recover the ground they lost in 2011, they wouldn't be savouring the victory they deserved last night.

But this is the PAP - arguably the most successful political party in the world - and it came up with enough aces after the shock loss of Aljunied in 2011.

It is not easy to build 100,000 Housing Board flats in three years, and in doing so, the ruling party showed the depth of its strength in delivering quick results.

Ditto its policy initiatives in immigration, health insurance and healthcare for the pioneer generation.

What now for the future of the party?

Throughout the campaign, its leaders and particularly Deputy Prime Minister Tharman Shanmugaratnam stressed that the PAP had changed from what it was in the earlier days.

Its politics had softened, its policies had become more inclusive, it now practises a less rigid form of meritocracy and it was spending more on welfare.

Voters rewarded the party for its willingness and capacity to make these changes.

Expect more to come as it tries to find a new balance between hard-headed policies to make the economy more competitive and doing more to help those unable to cope with the rough edges of raw capitalism.

But policy is the easier part of the challenge for the PAP.

The tougher area is in replenishing its ranks, and this GE gave a glimpse of what it takes to keep its renewal humming.

It had worried publicly that the more competitive politics today will shrink its talent pool because capable Singaporeans are discouraged from entering the fray.

Why risk a successful career in the public or private sector for the rough and tumble of partisan politics and with no assurance of success?

Indeed, for young Singaporeans interested in politics, the Workers' Party (WP) might be seen as a more exciting party to join - fresher and more daring.

The PAP responded by fielding more from the private and people sector than in previous elections.

The more rounded selection hasn't hurt its performance at the polls, an early indication perhaps that it is heading in the right direction.

But, more important, the party will hope that its earlier fears over the shrinking talent pool would not come to pass.

If indeed this is the case, it will be a big boost for the party and keep its leadership ranks refreshed.

The strong mandate it has received should also put it in a more confident position to make the necessary changes to the party to meet the changing expectations of Singaporeans and win their trust.

This leads to the most critical question of all concerning renewal: Who will be its next leader?

Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong led this campaign from the front, putting his leadership on the line, and he can justifiably claim a large part of the credit.

But for how long more can he do this?

At the moment, there is no clear successor and no one able to take charge, as he did, for the next election and beyond.

For the PAP, this is top priority over the next five years.

For the WP, this GE has consolidated its position, but only just.

Voters sent the party a very strong signal: Shape up or stay put.

It had slipped when it allowed its management of its town council to be attacked by the ruling party, casting doubts on its competence and more.

It knows it has to solve this problem in the next four years before the next GE.

Fail to do so and it might well be punished further.

The WP is adept at hitting the right emotional buttons to connect with those who dislike the PAP and do not want an overly dominant party.

But it has to do more to persuade others, who doubt its competency and its ability to be a credible alternative. This means being more active in Parliament, and taking a clearer stand on the important issues of the day.

Expect it to work harder on this front.

To do this well, it has to continue attracting younger Singaporeans with ability and commitment to join its ranks.

It remains to be seen whether its failure to make further electoral gains will set it back in its recruitment drive.

If it does, it will be a major blow to the party.

The hope the WP offered to opposition supporters four years ago of challenging PAP rule is still very much alive.

But it has been tempered by the reality that it will not be smooth sailing and it has to fight ever harder to regain the momentum.

On the whole, this has been a good result for the country with the political transition taking place at a controlled and gradual pace.

There has been no sudden shock or dislocation to the system.

Singaporeans are a pragmatic and sophisticated lot and they know instinctively what serves the country's interest best.

They rewarded the party which best learnt its lessons from GE2011.

Of all the signals that this election result sent, this message from voters was the clearest yet.

GE2015: Official sample count for all 29 wards released; PAP leading in all except Aljunied and Hougang
By Chew Hui Min, The Straits Times, 11 Sep 2015

The Elections Department has released the sample count results for all 13 SMCs and 16 GRCs, which give an early indication of the possible results for the electoral divisions.

The ruling People's Action Party (PAP) is leading in all constituencies except for two: Aljunied GRC and Hougang SMC. In Aljunied, WP is leading with 52 per cent, PAP 48 per cent. In Hougang, WP is leading with 58 per cent, PAP 42 per cent.

The other ward with a close margin is WP-held Punggol East, where the PAP is leading with 51 per cent, the WP 49 per cent.

The sample count results are not final, the Elections Department has stressed.

This is the first time the sample count is made public, and the move is aimed at forestalling speculation as the official counts are underway.

The sample results will be derived from a count of 100 ballot papers from each polling station within a constituency, soon after voting ends at 8pm. There are 832 polling stations islandwide.

Sample counts forecast results with unerring accuracy
By Louisa Tang, TODAY, 12 Sep 2015

About two to three hours after the polls closed yesterday (Sept 11), Singaporeans already had a sense of what the results would be, with sample counts being right on the money for most constituencies. The first sample count — for Bukit Panjang SMC — was released at about 9.40pm, less than two hours after voting ended at 8pm.

Sample results for the other 12 SMCs were gradually released after that, with the ruling People’s Action Party projected to clinch all but Hougang, including the SMCs of Fengshan — a closely watched battleground — and Punggol East, which was held by Ms Lee Li Lian of the Workers’ Party since January 2013.

Across the board, sample results reflected official results, with a margin difference of less than 2 percentage points in all constituencies save for the three-cornered fight in MacPherson SMC, which was just above that.

For example, the PAP candidate for Fengshan, Ms Cheryl Chan, was projected to take 57 per cent of votes and ended up with 57.52 per cent. Mr Charles Chong, the PAP’s Punggol East candidate, won 51.76 per cent of votes after he was projected to win 51 per cent.

It was the first time sample counts were made public. Derived from a count of 100 ballot papers from each polling station, this was meant to discourage unnecessary speculation and prevent people from relying on hearsay before the count was concluded.

In past polls, Election Department officers conducted sample counts for internal use as a check against the final outcome. Then, in the 2011 Presidential Election, candidates observed the sample counting process and were provided with the counts on request.

Analysts TODAY spoke to felt generally that sample counts could give voters and candidates an inkling of where the results were heading.

Dr Felix Tan of SIM Global Education said there were two ways to look at it: It would “eliminate, or at the very least, reduce, the possibility of speculation of how much has the vote swung”, but it could also “give supporters (of the parties) a shock factor”.

“It can be rather demoralising for some supporters and candidates, but for others, a boost to know that their party/candidate(s) are doing exceptionally well,” he added. “But the sample count doesn’t really explain much, especially for constituencies that are too close to call, such as Punggol East.”

Political scientist Lam Peng Er of the National University of Singapore’s East Asia Institute said any early release of information was useful, given that it is practised in other democracies such as Japan. “The sample counts, when they first came out, might have been very shocking to everyone — even the most optimistic of PAP supporters,” he added.

On the impact of sample counts on the ground, sociologist Tan Ern Ser said it meant “less tension is built up through the night”. As the night wore on, some WP supporters who gathered at coffee shops went from enthusiastic to disheartened. Those in Fengshan and Punggol East were disappointed by the PAP’s wins.

Said Mr Fendi Chan, who watched the results at the Bedok Ave 2 Blk 123 coffee shop: “I feel that someone needs to stand up and speak for us in Parliament. However, maybe we can see what the PAP candidate can do for Fengshan for the next five years.”

In contrast, the mood at Hougang, which the WP held, was more upbeat, with supporters banging on tables, cheering when the party’s candidates came on television and booing when PAP candidates did.


Votes cast overseas largely mirrored voting pattern here
3,415 voted overseas along same lines as at home, except for Hougang
By Walter Sim, The Straits Times, 16 Sep 2015

More than 3,400 Singaporeans abroad cast their votes in the Sept 11 General Election, and their voting patterns largely mirrored that of citizens here, except in single- seat Hougang.

Mr Lee Hong Chuang of the People's Action Party (PAP) received 22, or almost 60 per cent, of the 37 votes cast for Hougang, which the Workers' Party (WP) defended successfully.

The votes cast at 10 overseas polling stations were counted in Singapore yesterday, said the Elections Department (ELD) in a statement last night. It said that 3,415 Singaporeans voted, out of the 4,868 who registered as overseas electors.

There were 52 rejected votes.

In a close fight where the local votes are inconclusive, the result for an electoral division will be deferred until the overseas votes are counted.

But it was not the case this year as all the winning margins in the 13 single-member constituencies (SMCs) and 16 group representation constituencies (GRCs) were clearly higher than the total overseas votes for each of the constituencies.

The PAP won 71.34 per cent of the valid overseas votes cast.

But these votes did not make a difference to its overall vote share, which remains at 69.86 per cent.

Looking at overseas votes alone, two other hot SMCs besides Hougang also saw very narrow margins between the rivals.

In Punggol East SMC, winning PAP candidate Charles Chong received 20 votes against 17 for the WP's Ms Lee Li Lian.

And in Fengshan SMC, PAP candidate Cheryl Chan, the winner, received 19 votes versus 18 for the WP's Mr Dennis Tan.

Meanwhile, in Aljunied GRC, which was won by the WP, the PAP scored 107 overseas votes, or 46.9 per cent, to the WP's 121.

Among the three-cornered fights, two candidates received no votes. They are independent candidate Samir Salim Neji in Bukit Batok SMC and National Solidarity Party candidate Cheo Chai Chen in MacPherson SMC.

And Ms Han Hui Hui, who contested in Radin Mas SMC as an independent, had one vote.

The counting took place at the ELD Training Centre in Victoria Street. The total number of votes cast - including local, overseas and rejected votes - was 2.31 million, or 93.7 per cent of the registered electors.

The WP's Mr Yee Jenn Jong, whose team lost in Marine Parade GRC, attended the counting session.

He later posted on his Facebook page: "While we know that the number of overseas votes is too small to affect the outcome of the elections, making a trip (to the counting centre) is our gesture to acknowledge those who made the special effort to vote from afar."

Recap all the drama, sights and sounds from this year's General Election with The Straits Times' new e-book, Singapore's...
Posted by The Straits Times on Saturday, September 12, 2015

#GE2015 Relive the fever of the hustings through these photos and videos - including never-seen-before footage - curated by The Straits Times photo desk and multimedia team., check out our new e-book, Singapore's Jubilee Election, for all the drama, sights and sounds that you might have missed.
Posted by The Straits Times on Tuesday, September 15, 2015

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