GE2015: PAP's Charles Chong wins Punggol East SMC with 51.76 per cent of votes

PAP's Punggol East candidate Charles Chong at a rally on Sept 3.
PAP's Punggol East candidate Charles Chong at a rally on Sept 3.ST PHOTO: NEO XIAOBIN

SINGAPORE - People's Action Party (PAP) candidate Charles Chong, 62, has wrested Punggol East SMC from Workers' Party (WP) incumbent Lee Li Lian, 37.

Mr Chong got 51.76 per cent of the votes, while Ms Lee got 48.24 per cent.

The PAP's strategy of dispatching Mr Chong, a veteran six-term MP, to reclaim the opposition ward has paid off. The ward has 34,466 voters.

 

In a victory speech, Mr Chong said: "Allow me to thank you all for bringing the shine back to Punggol East."

He also thanked Ms Lee for taking care of the constituency for the past two years.

Ms Lee had won the single-member constituency in a by-election in 2013, after former PAP MP Michael Palmer stepped down when his extra-marital affair came to light.

 

She beat PAP candidate Koh Poh Koon with 54.5 per cent of the vote in a four-cornered fight. Dr Koh took 43.73 per cent of the vote, while the Reform Party's Kenneth Jeyaretnam won 1.2 per cent. Singapore Democratic Alliance candidate Desmond Lim got just 168 votes, or 0.57 per cent.

Her victory represented a swing of some 13.5 percentage points to the WP from the 2011 General Election, when she had stood against Mr Palmer and lost.

No stranger to close scrapes, Mr Chong had steeled himself for a tough fight.

In the last general election, he was fielded against the WP's Yee Jenn Jong in Joo Chiat, where he won by just 388 votes.

He had served as an MP for Pasir Ris-Punggol GRC from 2001 to 2011, and said he would use his old ties with residents to drum up support.

Meanwhile, Ms Lee had pointed to her home-ground knowledge as an advantage, having served residents for the past 21/2 years.

She has met as many residents as she could, tracked the homes she visited, and helped them with problems such as workmanship issues with new Build-To-Order flats.

At a WP rally in Punggol Field Walk, she pledged to continue fighting for more amenities such as hawker centres and markets to be built in the estate, among other things.

Mr Chong said he has identified concerns on the ground such as a lack of childcare facilities, but noted he could not make firm promises on plans that require money as he is unclear about the ward's finances.

At a rally on Sept 3, he urged voters to get Punggol East out of Aljunied-Hougang-Punggol East Town Council (AHPETC), which has come under fire from PAP politicians for its financial lapses.

Two days later, WP chief Low Thia Khiang charged that Punggol East had an operating fund account deficit of some $280,000 when the opposition party took over in 2013.

This did not square with what Mr Chong had told Chinese papers, that there was a $1 million surplus.

In the latest turn of events, Mr Chong said he had been "deliberately misquoted" by WP, and that he was referring to the Pasir Ris-Punggol Town Council having a surplus in excess of $1 million in the newspaper report, and not Punggol East constituency.

He urged the WP to subject AHPETC to an independent third-party audit, to bring closure to the issue.

The WP said in response that it did not misquote Mr Chong, and called on the PAP to correct its "misleading statements".