MP David Ong resigns: A brief electoral history of Bukit Batok which will see a by-election

Lawyer K. Muralidharan Pillai is the People's Action Party's candidate for the Bukit Batok by-election.
Lawyer K. Muralidharan Pillai is the People's Action Party's candidate for the Bukit Batok by-election.ST PHOTO: THAM YUEN-C
The Singapore Democratic Party announced that its candidate for the Bukit Batok by-election will be party chief Dr Chee Soon Juan on March 20, 2016.
The Singapore Democratic Party announced that its candidate for the Bukit Batok by-election will be party chief Dr Chee Soon Juan on March 20, 2016. ST PHOTO: DESMOND FOO
Independent candidate Samir Salim Neji (left) greeting David Ong at the Keming Primary School nomination centre on Sept 1, 2015.
Independent candidate Samir Salim Neji (left) greeting David Ong at the Keming Primary School nomination centre on Sept 1, 2015. PHOTO: ST FILE

This story was first published on March 12, 2016 and updated on March 21.

SINGAPORE - Bukit Batok residents will face a choice between Singapore Democratic Party chief Chee Soon Juan and Lawyer Murali Pillai of the People's Action Party in an upcoming by-election.

The single seat of Bukit Batok constituency, which has been vacated after former MP David Ong's sudden resignation on Saturday (March 12), was only recently revived in the 2015 General Election.

A single-member constituency until 1997, it was merged into Bukit Timah group representation constituency (GRC), and it later became part of Jurong GRC.

PAP's Mr Ong won the seat in the Sept 11 election last year with 73 per cent of the votes in a three-way fight, which was higher than the national average of 69.9 per cent.

A grassroots leader since 1999, Mr Ong had been MP for Bukit Batok since 2011, when it was part of Jurong GRC.

The Straits Times takes a look at the seat in the west that will soon see another political contest:

1. Three-way contest in 2015


Mr Sadasivam Veriyah (right) with SDP secretary-general Chee Soon Juan (centre) and Mr Wong Souk Yee at the SDP headquarters on Aug 29, 2015. PHOTO: ST FILE

 

In GE 2015, Mr Ong faced the Singapore Democratic Party's (SDP) Sadasivam Veriyah and independent candidate Samir Salim Neji.

Mr Veriyah, a former teacher and ex-PAP member, garnered 26.4 per cent of the votes. Kerala-born Mr Samir, a businessman, received just 0.6 per cent or a total of 150 votes, and lost his election deposit of $14,500.

The single-seat ward has some 27,077 voters.

SDP said on Saturday it will contest the by-election but did not reveal who it plans to field.

2. Once a hot seat

Bukit Batok became part of Bukit Timah GRC in 1997 after a close shave in the 1991 election.

The PAP had its slimmest victory of that general election in Bukit Batok, polling 51.8 per cent. The incumbent MP, Dr Ong Chit Chung, beat the SDP's Mr Kwan Yue Keng by just 858 votes.

The election of 1988 also saw a close fight between the two candidates. Dr Ong won then with 56 per cent to Mr Kwan's 44 per cent of votes.

3. Walkovers and big wins

In the 1997 election, Bukit Batok became part of then newly-formed Bukit Timah GRC, which no opposition party contested that year.

Then, it became part of Jurong GRC, where the SDP won just 20.3 per cent of the vote in 2001. The next election was a walkover, and 2011 saw the National Solidarity Party get 33.1 per cent.

4. By-election dilemma


Mr Ong Chit Chung, then a Jurong GRC MP,  focused mainly on his constituency work during his 20 years in politics. PHOTO: ST FILE

This is not the first time the seat has been vacated mid-term.

In 2008, Dr Ong Chit Chung, then a Jurong GRC MP, died suddenly at home of a heart attack at age 59.

Many were shocked as the five-term MP appeared in good health just days before.

The former history professor at the National University of Singapore focused mainly on his constituency work during his 20 years in politics. He was also a director at various companies.

A debate ensued on whether there was a need to call for a by-election. The seat was left vacant until the next general election in 2011.

5. Early Stronghold


Mr Chai Chong Yii, the first MP of Bukit Batok. PHOTO: ST FILE

The PAP polled strongly in the ward when it was first created as a single seat in 1972.

The seat was carved out of Bukit Timah, Chua Chu Kang and Bukit Panjang, and had a substantial number of kampongs and re-settled farmers back then.

As of the last election in 2015, it was made up mostly of public housing, with 4 per cent of residents living in condominiums.

The first MP of Bukit Batok was Mr Chai Chong Yii, one of the first graduates of Nantah, who later became the Bursar at the university.

Mr Chai won three elections between 1972 and 1984 with vote shares ranging from 73 per cent to 84.6 per cent. There was a walkover in the 1980 General Election.