Single-Member Constituencies: Potong Pasir

Sitoh retains seat with bigger margin

Clockwise from left: People in a Potong Pasir coffee shop watching the poll results on TV last night; Mr Sitoh Yih Pin talking to reporters before the results; Mrs Lina Chiam left after the sample count showed her opponent clearly in the lead.
People in a Potong Pasir coffee shop watching the poll results on TV last night.ST PHOTO: YEO KAI WEN
Mr Sitoh Yih Pin talking to reporters before the results
Mr Sitoh Yih Pin talking to reporters before the resultsST PHOTO: YEO KAI WEN
Mrs Lina Chiam left after the sample count showed her opponent clearly in the lead.
Mrs Lina Chiam left after the sample count showed her opponent clearly in the lead.ST PHOTO: YEO KAI WEN

Estate upgrading seen as the clincher in defeat of SPP's Lina Chiam

Potong Pasir MP Sitoh Yih Pin took the former opposition stronghold for a second term, bettering his winning margin over opponent Lina Chiam by about 45 times.

His sprucing up of the single-seat ward, helmed by Mrs Chiam's husband Chiam See Tong for 27 years before the 2011 General Election, appeared critical to his win.

Mr Sitoh, 51, collected 66.4 per cent of the votes, 5,228 votes more than Singapore People's Party (SPP) chairman Mrs Chiam, 66. In 2011, he won by a mere 114 votes on his third attempt contesting in the single-seat ward where the electoral boundaries remain largely unchanged.

The People's Action Party MP has since rolled out a slew of upgrading projects in the once-rustic estate, including covered linkways, over 100 extra parking spaces and lifts that stop on every floor of HDB blocks.

In this election campaign, he promised other improvements, such as an expanded community-club gym and a free shuttle bus service plying the constituency.

Mrs Chiam had promised to bring back Potong Pasir's do-it-yourself "kampung" spirit. Mr Sitoh's rejoinder? "Kampung spirit doesn't mean you have to stay in a kampung... with no amenities."

He underlined his ability to roll up his sleeves and bring about change, likening himself to Hong Kong movie star Jackie Chan whose "one show a year is always a hit. There are no queries about his ability to act... I am the same".

His dynamism appeared to have won over supporters who previously voted for Mr Chiam.

One of them, Mr Tommy Tan, 63, who used to work in shipping, was at Cedar Girls' Secondary School last night where the votes for Potong Pasir were being counted.

He told reporters: "I used to support Mr Chiam but after so many years, the lift had still not been upgraded. Can you imagine, the estate had not been done up in 27 years and Sitoh does it in four years? I think he has the drive."

Political pundits had expected a closer race in a constituency where the Chiam name still commands loyalty and affection among some residents. This is especially as Mrs Chiam has said this will be the last election for her and her husband, 80, who has retired from politics.

Mr Sitoh had predicted that "it's going to be close", and confessed he had not slept much the night before, when interviewed by reporters yesterday evening ahead of the vote count.

The furrowed brow was replaced by a big smile when he thanked cheering supporters in his victory speech later that night at Toa Payoh Stadium. He said he was "very humbled" and assured voters that he "will fulfil all the promises and even more".

After the sample count showed her opponent clearly in the lead, Mrs Chiam left the school in a car, without stopping to talk to reporters. She later congratulated Mr Sitoh in a Facebook post, saying: "I hope that Singaporeans can work hand in hand with their elected MP to help the Government create better policies."

While she respected the choice of voters, she said her party would not give up contesting the ward. "Potong Pasir is too close to our hearts."

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on September 12, 2015, with the headline 'Sitoh retains seat with bigger margin'. Print Edition | Subscribe