Three factors key to strong win in polls: PM Lee

PM Lee Hsien Loong at the PAP Convention 2015 at the Singapore Expo.
PM Lee Hsien Loong at the PAP Convention 2015 at the Singapore Expo. ST PHOTO: YEO KAI WEN

Singaporeans gave the People's Action Party (PAP) a strong result at the Sept 11 General Election due to the party's efforts on the ground and in policy changes that showed results, Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong said yesterday.

Public goodwill towards the party was also reinforced by the special circumstances of Singapore's Golden Jubilee and founding Prime Minister Lee Kuan Yew's death, which gave people a stronger sense of identity and nationhood, he added at the party's convention.

Political observers have cited a range of reasons for the PAP's 69.9 per cent vote share nationwide, but this was the first time Mr Lee spoke at length on the subject. Finance Minister Heng Swee Keat is still leading a formal post-mortem, said Mr Lee, as he shared his preliminary thoughts on three factors that explained the strong election result.

First, hard work by the PAP MPs and activists not just during the campaign period, but over the last four years and before that, paid off.

For instance, Manpower Minister Lim Swee Say - whom Mr Lee described as the "chief salesman for the Pioneer Generation Package (PGP) and MediShield Life" - conducted more than 100 dialogues with residents in his Bedok ward, "block by block, weekend by weekend", to explain the schemes.

Senior Minister of State for Defence and Foreign Affairs Maliki Osman also systematically covered his Siglap ward by creating a computer database to log visits and make sure he personally connected with every resident, even if he had to return to the same area twice or thrice.

Both stood in East Coast GRC, which was expected to see a close fight from the Workers' Party. Their work saw the PAP team win a comfortable 60.7 per cent of votes.

Second, the PAP Government made progress in areas such as housing, transport, immigration and healthcare - areas that became hot issues during the 2011 General Election when the PAP scored 60.1 per cent of the popular vote, its lowest share since independence.

The PGP was a "big hit", Mr Lee said, easing worries over healthcare, while programmes like the SkillsFuture initiative showed that the Government is planning for the future.

Still, there remains work to be done, he added, citing how Transport Minister Khaw Boon Wan is being kept busy improving public transport, Health Minister Gan Kim Yong is working on MediShield Life and new hospitals and polyclinics, and Senior Minister of State Josephine Teo is occupied with population issues.

Third, the sense of national identity strengthened this year. The 50th anniversary of independence and the death of Mr Lee Kuan Yew reminded Singaporeans that it took a united people for Singapore to succeed, PM Lee said. These were "one-off events", but "left a deep mark on all of us", he added.

Whether one lived through independence or only read about it in books, "we all shared the national moment of grief when Mr Lee passed away, and we all shared the moment of rejoicing when we sang Majulah Singapura and recited the Pledge on National Day", he said.

Turning his eye to the next elections, GE 2021, PM Lee said it will be "a new battle" even as the good result of GE 2015 was a "good base".

"Voters will judge the PAP afresh the next time, not only by what we have done before, but what we will be doing this term and what we can continue to do," he said. "They will ask whether our promises merit their trust, whether our actions strengthen their conviction, whether our policies and plans will continue to take Singapore forward."

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on December 07, 2015, with the headline ''Three factors key to strong win in polls''. Print Edition | Subscribe