Bukit Batok by-election on May 7

The PAP's Murali Pillai (right) and SDP secretary-general Chee Soon Juan will be running in the by-election on May 7, 2016.
The PAP's Murali Pillai (right) and SDP secretary-general Chee Soon Juan will be running in the by-election on May 7, 2016.ST PHOTOS: MARK CHEONG/ SEAH KWANG PENG

Nomination Day next Wednesday; PAP and SDP look to be in for a straight fight

After weeks of frenzied activity on the ground, the promised by-election in Bukit Batok was called yesterday.

On May 7, the 25,616 voters in the single-member constituency will go to the polls.

The date was confirmed in a writ of election President Tony Tan Keng Yam issued in the afternoon after being advised by Deputy Prime Minister Teo Chee Hean, who is Acting PM. Nomination Day will be next Wednesday.

Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong, who is on an official visit to the Middle East and spoke to Mr Teo earlier, said after the writ was issued: "Now that the Budget is out of the way, we are calling this by-election to enable residents of Bukit Batok to have their own MP as we work together to improve Singaporeans' lives."

"Partnership between Government and citizens is key to our success. I hope Bukit Batok residents will elect the candidate who will be concerned for their welfare, represent them ably in Parliament, and make Bukit Batok the best home for them," he said on his Facebook page.

 
 
 
 

The People's Action Party (PAP) and Singapore Democratic Party (SDP) look set for a straight fight for the seat, left vacant after MP David Ong stepped down on March 12 over an alleged extramarital affair with a party activist.

The by-election will be the third in less than four years, all triggered by the resignation of MPs due to personal indiscretions.

Lawyer Murali Pillai of the PAP and SDP secretary-general Chee Soon Juan, who have been walking the ground since being named as party candidates last month, welcomed yesterday's announcement of the poll date.

 

In last year's general election, Bukit Batok was carved out as a single seat, after being part of Jurong GRC since 2001. The PAP won 73 per cent of the vote in a three-way contest against the SDP and an independent candidate.

Both Mr Murali, 48, and Dr Chee, 53, who stood in other areas during last year's polls, have identified several election issues they will champion in Bukit Batok this time round.

Chief among them is support for the seniors and the low-income in the mature estate which has many flats from the 1980s. Just over 4 per cent of residents in the constituency live in condominiums.

Mr Murali, who is head of commercial litigation at Rajah & Tann, said he would announce his plans to address residents' "concerns and aspirations" in the next few days. "We will... carry on listening to them, understanding their concerns and addressing them as well as we can."

Dr Chee made a public call on Facebook for volunteers to help in the impending campaign: "Volunteer now to change Singapore for the better and we can start by winning the by-election in Bukit Batok."

Given the PAP's big winning margin the last election, political watchers said signs suggest Dr Chee will have a tough fight.

But in earlier polls, the contests have been keener. In the 1988 and 1991 elections, the SDP twice garnered more than 40 per cent of votes in the constituency.

National University of Singapore political scientist Reuben Wong said: "There's always a by-election effect because the Government is secured and the voter can take more risks to vote for the opposition."

But he added that this may be mitigated by the PAP's more established presence on the ground.

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on April 21, 2016, with the headline 'Bukit Batok by-election on May 7'. Print Edition | Subscribe