Marine Parade GRC

Chuan-Jin helps party run away with bigger majority

In the sea of white at Bedok Stadium last night, Mr Tan Chuan-Jin's red track shoes stood out.

Emblazoned with the words "maju" and "lah", the customised kicks had been an integral part of the People's Action Party candidate's campaign trail and, in a way, the narrative of the ruling party's victory in Marine Parade GRC. The 46-year- old had been wearing the red shoes in the nine days that he pounded the pavement in the area, running from house to house to canvass for votes.

It worked as he led the five-man PAP team to a resounding victory against the Workers' Party. He even managed to widen the margin, winning 64.07 per cent of the vote, up from the 56.6 per cent in GE2011.

Yesterday jubilant supporters were heard shouting "Run Chuan- Jin run", in a reference to a popular catchphrase in the movie Forrest Gump. Leading the team for the first time as anchor minister, the former army brigadier-general also did not hold a rally for the GRC.

Instead, he went house to house.

"We just wanted to reach out and touch base with people, who we have been meeting on so many occasions in between... this allows us to touch base in a much more intimate fashion," Mr Tan said.

The anchor minister said he has been running during house visits since the 2011 General Election and in the past four years during house visits as an MP. It was this personal touch and those of his team, including ESM Goh Chok Tong, which made the difference.

Those efforts have not gone unnoticed. Marketing executive Grace Sung, who is from Marine Parade constituency, said: "The PAP has been trying to listen to different opinions and has put effort into trying to change things."

The 23-year-old added that there have been improvements to the infrastructure over the last few years, including lift upgrades and addition of covered walkways.

Mr Tan, who was identified by Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong to be part of the nucleus of next-generation leaders, said earlier this week that the party needs to change the way it communicates with people.

Asked if the PAP's victory was also buoyed by the feel-good factor of the SG50 celebrations, Mr Tan said: "You would expect some sort of positive boost but I don't think to this degree. If you hadn't put in the work, you hadn't put in the outreach, I don't think SG50 would have made such a huge impact the way this has been. It's really working hard and going back to addressing concerns. It's encouraging to know that it's not (about) playing games (but) focusing on doing the right things."

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on September 12, 2015, with the headline 'Chuan-Jin helps party run away with bigger majority'. Print Edition | Subscribe