GE2015: PAP retains Holland-Bukit Timah GRC with 66.6 per cent of votes

PAP's candidates Mr Liang Eng Hwa, Dr Vivian Balakrishnan, Ms Sim Ann and Mr Christopher de Souza addressing their supporters at the Assumption Pathway School.
PAP's candidates Mr Liang Eng Hwa, Dr Vivian Balakrishnan, Ms Sim Ann and Mr Christopher de Souza addressing their supporters at the Assumption Pathway School.ST PHOTO: DESMOND FOO
SDP's candidates (from left) Dr Paul Tambyah, Mr Sidek Mallek, Mr Chong Wai Fung and Dr Chee Soon Juan who will be contesting the Holland-Bukit Timah GRC addressing their supporters at the Assumption Pathway School.
SDP's candidates (from left) Dr Paul Tambyah, Mr Sidek Mallek, Mr Chong Wai Fung and Dr Chee Soon Juan who will be contesting the Holland-Bukit Timah GRC addressing their supporters at the Assumption Pathway School.ST PHOTO: DESMOND FOO

SINGAPORE - The People's Action Party (PAP) has retained Holland-Bukit Timah GRC with 66.6 per cent of the votes.

The Singapore Democratic Party (SDP) got 33.4 per cent of the votes in a contest that was slated to be close.

The PAP team, led by Minister for the Environment and Water Resources Vivian Balakrishnan, 54, includes Minister of State Sim Ann, 40, banker Liang Eng Hwa, 51, and lawyer Christopher de Souza, 39.

 

They faced an SDP team led by Dr Chee Soon Juan, 53, which includes medical professor Paul Tambyah, 50, healthcare administrator Chong Wai Fung, 45, and compliance auditor Sidek Mallek, 55.

The PAP team improved on its vote share of 60.1 per cent from the 2011 election, when it defeated a SDP team comprising Dr Vincent Wijeysingha, Mr Tan Jee Say, Mr Ang Yong Guan and Ms Michelle Lee.

This round, SDP has campaigned for alternative national policies, such as a minimum wage, a national health investment fund, as well as cheaper public housing sold under special conditions.

It has framed these big-picture policies as moral choices for the 104,491 voters in Holland-Bukit Timah.

The PAP team hit back with a two-page letter titled "The Hard Truths About SDP's Policies", that was sent to about 45,000 households.

The letter criticised the SDP's proposals, saying, for instance, that the idea to raise personal income and corporate taxes was unrealistic and would drive away multinational corporations and large companies.

The PAP team also said the SDP's suggestion to slash the defence budget by 40 per cent ignored geopolitical risks and would threaten Singapore's existence.

In the SDP's final rally on Wednesday, Dr Tambyah delivered a point-by-point rebuttal of the PAP's claims. On the point that the SDP's push for universal health insurance would erode personal responsibility, for example, he said it is not morally right to punish people for being sick.

Policy tussles aside, another factor in the contest was the resurgence of Dr Chee, who is contesting elections for the first time since 2001.

He had to sit out the past two elections after being bankrupted by libel lawsuits brought against him by PAP leaders. He also went to jail for acts of civil disobedience, such as speaking in public without a licence.

But social media has helped soften his public image, with videos of his speeches and family life circulating widely online. He also appears to have moved away from his past confrontational approach - during one rally speech, he even pledged to work with the PAP if the SDP candidates were voted into Parliament.

He has drawn the crowds at rallies, as well as long lines of people wanting to take photos and get autographs from him.

Meanwhile, the PAP team has repeatedly questioned his character during campaigning. In one rally speech, Ms Sim commented on how Dr Chee "chut pattern", a Singlish phrase suggesting that he performed a lot of antics.

Dr Chee has dismissed the attacks as an attempt to draw attention away from the real issues.

Besides raising doubts about Dr Chee's character, the PAP has also said the SDP team did not present town or community plans for the GRC, and was "ignorant of local needs and concerns".

Still, it was unclear how much of an impact municipal concerns would have in a constituency where about 45 per cent of its residents live in private housing, far higher than the national average of less than 20 per cent.

Holland-Bukit Timah's boundaries cover exclusive landed housing districts and high-end condominiums hugging the green lungs in central Singapore, while its public housing residents are clustered around Ghim Moh and Bukit Panjang.