GE2015: Reactions

'Flight to safety gave PAP big boost'

Jubilant PAP supporters at Toa Payoh Stadium cheering as the results are announced.
Jubilant PAP supporters at Toa Payoh Stadium cheering as the results are announced.ST PHOTO: NEO XIAOBIN

Analysts also cite sentiment from Mr Lee's death and SG50 celebrations

The significant swing in favour of the People's Action Party (PAP) in yesterday's polls surprised analysts, who said the party likely benefited from a "flight to safety" among voters.

The PAP was likely also helped by lingering sentiment from founding Prime Minister Lee Kuan Yew's death in March, as well as the jubilee year celebrations, they said.

Yesterday's polls yielded a 9.8 percentage point gain for the PAP, compared with the 2011 General Election. This was the largest such move since the 2001 elections,when there was a 10.3 percentage point swing.

Singapore Management University law professor Eugene Tan said there was a "sense of foreboding that Singapore might wake up to a different reality".

"Everyone was talking about how the tables were going to be turned on the PAP, and this made the middle-ground voters decide that, maybe, they should go for the tried-and-tested brand," he added.

Yesterday's polls yielded a 9.8 percentage point gain for the PAP, compared with the 2011 General Election. This was the largest such move since the 2001 elections, when there was a 10.3 percentage point swing.

S. Rajaratnam School of International Studies' Associate Professor Alan Chong said the PAP sent a strong message about its track record in the final few days on the hustings, and this made an impact on voters worried about an increasingly uncertain global outlook.

"Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong encouraged voters to think about the last 50 years, as well as about the very uncertain external situation now. This played to the PAP's advantage," he said.

Social media had been abuzz about the opposition's strong prospects in the run-up to the elections and on the hustings.

But former Nominated MP Siew Kum Hong said factors such as Mr Lee Kuan Yew's death and the SG50 celebrations still made a difference for a significant segment of Singaporeans.

"If you exclude that portion of the population that are all fired up about the elections and that are very active on the Internet, then there's a very big group of Singaporeans who were not so active, not so vocal, and maybe for them, these factors did make a difference," he said.

The general trend towards more opposition voices could have been overwhelmed by these factors, Mr Siew added.

"But maybe there is no such trend. Maybe there is a demand for the PAP to be responsive (and not necessarily for more opposition per se)."

Associate Professor Tan said the PAP can interpret the results as a "resounding endorsement of what they have been doing over the last four years, and to a certain extent over the last 50 years", as well as voters' response to the party's more consultative style of engagement.

Prof Chong said the Workers' Party's (WP) performance - while weaker than some pundits had expected - is still a "silver lining" for the opposition.

"They managed to hold on to roughly the same percentage in Aljunied and Hougang. This shows they have been working hard," he said.

"When the losing candidates in Marine Parade said they will build more inroads in the coming years, they will. Success in elections requires sustained cultivation on the ground and that is how the WP won Aljunied and Hougang."

The WP's inability to win another constituency means that there is still space for other parties, said Mr Siew.

For instance, the Singapore Democratic Party's vote share - which came in at 31.23 per cent - fell only slightly from the previous election.

"In the context of the national swing, it's pretty creditable. It speaks to Dr Chee (Soon Juan) and Dr (Paul) Tambyah's performance," he added.

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on September 12, 2015, with the headline ''Flight to safety gave PAP big boost' Reactions'. Print Edition | Subscribe