GE2O15: Workers' Party retains Aljunied GRC with 50.95 per cent of the vote

WP's Aljunied team comprising (from right) Mr Pritam Singh, Mr Muhamad Faisal Abdul Manap, Mr Chen Show Mao, Ms Sylvia Lim and Mr Low Thia Khiang.
WP's Aljunied team comprising (from right) Mr Pritam Singh, Mr Muhamad Faisal Abdul Manap, Mr Chen Show Mao, Ms Sylvia Lim and Mr Low Thia Khiang. PHOTO: AFP

SINGAPORE - The Workers' Party (WP) has retained Aljunied GRC by a narrow margin in the 2015 General Election, with 50.95 per cent of the votes cast.

The margin of votes was close enough that the People's Action Party (PAP) team applied for a recount, but they were ultimately edged out with 49.05 per cent of the vote.

The WP team comprised party chief Low Thia Khiang, 59, chairman Sylvia Lim, 50, Mr Pritam Singh, 39, Mr Chen Show Mao, 54, and Mr Muhamad Faisal Abdul Manap, 40.

They faced a PAP team which comprised veteran four-term MP Yeo Guat Kwang, 54, and four new faces - insurance firm director Victor Lye, 53, senior bank officer Chua Eng Leong, 44, former teacher Shamsul Kamar, 43, and lawyer K. Muralidharan Pillai, 47.

Addressing jubilant WP supporters, Ms Lim said: "Thank you for your support, and for returning us as MPs for Aljunied GRC. You have given us your mandate to represent you, and we will do our best."

She added: "To those of you who have not voted for us, we respect your vote. We pledge to work with everyone and earn your support in the coming term. The five of us look forward to serving our residents in Aljunied GRC."

In the end, the two parties were separated by just 2,612 votes.

Under Singapore's election laws, a recount of votes is allowed only if the difference in votes between two candidates is 2 per cent or less of the total number of valid votes cast. Only one application for a recount can be made.

In the 2011 General Election, a recount was held for Potong Pasir SMC. The People's Action Party's Sitoh Yih Pin beat the Singapore People's Party's Lina Chiam to win the seat with just 114 votes, or a mere 0.7 percentage point.

There was another close call in Nee Soon Central SMC in 1991, when the Singapore Democratic Party's Cheo Chai Chen won with a 0.6 point margin. A recount confirmed that just 168 votes separated him from PAP incumbent Ng Pock Too.

Political watchers had reckoned that the PAP faced an uphill task in retaking the opposition ward, which has 148,142 voters. They were ultimately proven right, though the WP's margin of victory was lower than in 2011.

The WP wrested Aljunied GRC from the PAP during the 2011 General Election, when it won 54.72 per cent of the vote.

It was the first time an opposition party had claimed a GRC, and the PAP lost two Cabinet ministers including then Foreign Affairs Minister George Yeo.

After growing speculation that the WP might move one of its "big guns" out to contest another constituency this round, the party announced that its Aljunied team would stay put, to repay the faith of voters and seek their mandate.

On Nomination Day, the WP team urged Aljunied residents to support them once more.

The PAP challengers have been dubbed a "suicide squad" for taking on the WP heavyweights. It is the only PAP team without an anchor minister.

Mr Pillai earlier acknowledged the difficult task his team faced when he said: "We came in knowing we were the underdogs. We're working hard to regain the trust of the Aljunied residents, so we can't give up."

In a bid to shore up support for the PAP candidates, senior party leaders - Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong, Deputy Prime Minister Tharman Shanmugaratnam and Emeritus Senior Minister Goh Chok Tong - visited Aljunied GRC during the hustings.

In deciding who to vote for, Aljunied residents faced a choice between keeping the WP in Parliament as an alternative voice, or opting for the PAP, a party with a good track record.

One hot-button election issue that emerged was the financial lapses of the Aljunied-Hougang-Punggol East Town Council (AHPETC), with both parties trading barbs over it during the campaign rallies.

The PAP has attacked WP over its lapses, and tried to paint the opposition party as being incapable of competently running a town council. The WP has replied that they have already cleaned up their books.

Aljunied GRC residents interviewed by The Straits Times said the handover from the PAP had largely been smooth for them.