The nationwide swing

'All-out contest may have worked against opposition'

The Workers' Party team for Aljunied GRC, comprising (from left) Mr Low Thia Khiang, Ms Sylvia Lim, Mr Pritam Singh, Mr Chen Show Mao and Mr Muhamad Faisal Abdul Manap thanking residents in Kovan yesterday.
The Workers' Party team for Aljunied GRC, comprising (from left) Mr Low Thia Khiang, Ms Sylvia Lim, Mr Pritam Singh, Mr Chen Show Mao and Mr Muhamad Faisal Abdul Manap thanking residents in Kovan yesterday.ST PHOTO: KEVIN LIM

Lower levels of dissatisfaction with Govt also a factor in large vote share swing: Sylvia Lim

The all-out contest in the 89 seats at the Sept 11 polls may have led to a pushback by voters against the opposition, said Workers' Party (WP) chairman Sylvia Lim, who also cited lower levels of dissatisfaction with the Government as another reason for the large swing in national vote share in favour of the ruling party.

However, she did not think financial accounting issues concerning a WP-run town council or overconfidence on the party's part were factors in the WP's slide in support in its 10 battlegrounds.

"One of the things that did loom in people's minds is that, for the first time, all 89 seats were contested. Perhaps some people did feel there was some risk... the PAP might be dislodged as a government," she said.

"There is a perception that the opposition movement is growing strong, and there could have been a pushback on that because people still feel comfortable with the PAP as a government."

She spoke to reporters yesterday before the start of the party's procession in Aljunied GRC to thank voters for their support. The WP won Aljunied in 2011 with 54.7 per cent of the vote but garnered only 50.95 per cent this time round.

WHEN I REALISED WE HAD LOST

Standing in the middle of the school hall last night, I surveyed the will of the people stacking up in crosses all around me. I was nervous at first, but at the exact moment that I realised we had lost, a peace came unto me. It was done.

I shook the hands of our tearing counting agents and couldn't thank them enough. I shook the hands of the People's Action Party's (PAP) counting agents, who respectfully wished me the best and gave me a slight bow even.

I walked downstairs to join Allan and my wife ... I told them we have lost by a landslide. My wife knew where I was, in my meditation zone.

The people have spoken and the collective wisdom is always right. Analysts will fall over one another in the coming weeks to discern the hearts of voters.

For me, the meaning of the results is clear. It is a ringing endorsement of the PAP's programme of going back to its centre-left roots and Prime Minister Lee (Hsien Loong's) leadership. It is also a nod to the Workers' Party's (WP) brand of rational and responsible politics, since the seats won in General Election 2011 were returned. But with caveats: work harder, and buck up, in both town management and Parliament; less egoism and opportunism, more depth, humility and courage, more listening and walking...

DR DANIEL GOH, in a Facebook post yesterday on losing in East Coast GRC to the PAP and securing a vote share of 39.27 per cent. He was part of the WP's slate in the four-member GRC.

Despite the pushback, WP will not be adopting the by-election strategy, in which the opposition contests less than half the seats so the PAP is returned to power on Nomination Day, said Ms Lim. She added that there is "no reason for us to cap or there's no way for us to work together as an opposition movement to cap the number of seats we want to contest".

"I don't think that Singaporeans will really benefit from that, because fundamentally we also want Singaporeans to have a choice, and I think the ruling party is probably happy to have a mandate rather than a walkover," she said.

Ms Lim added that "the numbers do not suggest that" the party was affected by the governance and financial lapses at the Aljunied-Hougang-Punggol East Town Council. PAP leaders have accused the WP of mismanaging the town council and turned up the rhetoric during the first half of campaigning, although WP has maintained that there was no wrongdoing and problems in the accounts are being rectified.

But Ms Lim pointed out that while the PAP's national vote share climbed by almost 10 percentage points, the WP-held constituencies saw a slide of about 5 percentage points.

"So if the town council issue were to affect us we would see a bigger swing against us," she said.

Instead, Ms Lim listed other possible factors in the PAP's favour, "such as the feel-good factor of SG50 and the memory of the late Mr Lee Kuan Yew", as well as positive sentiments towards the ruling party after policy changes.

The PAP won 69.9 per cent of the vote share, a 9.8 percentage point improvement from 2011, when it scored its worst showing since independence. Mr Lee, Singapore's founding prime minister, died in March this year.

The WP saw its overall vote share fall from 46.6 per cent to 39.8 per cent and it also lost the Punggol East single seat, which it won in a 2013 by-election.

When asked if the party had been overconfident of its support in Aljunied as it placed more emphasis on walking the ground in other areas during the campaign, Ms Lim said the WP had already done consistent groundwork there over the last four years. "It's logical that during the campaign period when we were actually going to contest in

areas where we are not the incumbent, we have to do more work there," she said.

As for whether the electoral setback would affect WP's ability to retain and attract talent, Ms Lim chose to see it as "a very useful test of a person's commitment".

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Sunday Times on September 13, 2015, with the headline ''All-out contest may have worked against opposition''. Print Edition | Subscribe