GE2015: 10 things many did not see coming on Polling Day

PAP supporters waving party flags at Kong Hwa School on Nomination Day, Sept 1, 2015.
PAP supporters waving party flags at Kong Hwa School on Nomination Day, Sept 1, 2015. ST PHOTO: DESMOND WEE

SINGAPORE - The 2015 General Election has drawn to a close after nine days of intense campaigning. Here are 10 unexpected things that emerged on Polling Day:

1. National swing towards the PAP

There was talk that the People's Action Party might lose another GRC and an SMC or two.

None of that happened. It won more than convincingly, and took one SMC back from the opposition.

The ruling party ended with 69.9 per cent of overall votes cast, a vast improvement from the 60. 1 posted at the last general election in 2011. The swing came as a shock to the opposition parties, with several including SingFirst party chief Tan Jee Say saying that the results did not tally with the feedback they had got on the ground.

All the other opposition parties fared worse than they did in 2011, with the Singapore People's Party suffering a 14.3 percentage point drop.

2. PAP takes back Punggol East

Workers' Party's Lee Li Lian waves to the crowd at the end of her speech after losing Punggol East SMC to PAP's Charles Chong on Sept 12, 2015. PHOTO: BUSINESS TIMES

Even with PAP veteran Charles Chong's experience as a six-term MP, many had expected the Workers' Party's Lee Li Lian to retain her seat in Punggol East.

Ms Lee, 37, won the single-seat ward in a by-election in 2013 after former PAP MP Michael Palmer stepped down following an extramarital affair.

Instead, the PAP's strategy of dispatching Mr Chong paid off when he won with 51.8 per cent of the vote. Ms Lee was later seen surrounded by supporters and in tears.

3. East Coast not so "hot" after all

It was identified early on as one of the hottest battlegrounds because of its proximity to the Workers' Party-held Aljunied GRC and the strong WP slate, but East Coast GRC turned out to be an easier win for the PAP than many expected - even if it scored the lowest among the GRCs.

The PAP slate of Manpower Minister Lim Swee Say, Senior Minister of State Lee Yi Shyan, Minister of State Maliki Osman and two-term MP Jessica Tan retained their seats with 60.7 per cent of the votes.

Their victory over the WP's Gerald Giam, an IT solutions architect, Oxford-educated consultancy firm chief executive Leon Perera, National University of Singapore sociology associate professor Daniel Goh and former librarian Mohamed Fairoz Shariff, was an improvement over the 2011 result.

East Coast GRC was also the closest GRC win for the PAP in 2011, when the team won with 54.8 per cent of  the vote.

4. Cheryl Chan tastes "heavenly" Fengshan

In the end, the heavenly taste of Fengshan was one for the PAP's Cheryl Chan to savour.

The 38-year-old grassroots leader and Fengshan resident won with 57.5 per cent of the votes cast, compared with the WP's Dennis Tan's 42.5 per cent.

While both candidates were new faces in the hot seat, several had tipped the WP to have the edge, especially with claims that the ward was hived off from East Coast GRC because it polled poorly in 2011.

5. Just 1 per cent for NSP's Cheo Chai Chen

His entry into the race for MacPherson may have come out of left field, but the National Solidarity Party's Cheo Chai Chen is after all a former MP. One expected him to garner more votes than the 215 he won in MacPherson SMC. Could it have been due to his unpopular comment about his PAP rival? He had said during campaigning that PAP candidate Tin Pei Ling's new role as a mother was a "weakness" - a comment he later brushed off as a joke.

Mr Cheo lost his election deposit.

6. Potong Pasir: So much more than 114 votes

Mr Sitoh Yih Pin, the People's Action Party's (PAP) candidate for Potong Pasir SMC, speaking at a rally in Potong Pasir on Sept 9, 2015. ST PHOTO: LIM SIN THAI

Having squeezed past by just 114 votes in 2011, few might have thought the PAP's Sitoh Yih Pin would retain his seat in Potong Pasir with as big a margin as he did this time.

The PAP incumbent won with 66.4 per cent - or 5,228 votes - more than comfortably beating the Singapore People's Party's Mrs Lina Chiam.

Potong Pasir, the smallest electoral ward in this election, was the closest fight in the 2011 General Election.

7. DPM Tharman tops the charts

Deputy Prime Minister Tharman Shanmugaratnam's Jurong GRC was the best performing GRC. His team comprising Mr Ang Wei Neng, Mr Desmond Lee, Ms Rahayu Mahzam and Mr Tan Wu Meng, won with a whopping 79.3 per cent.

A close second was the Ang Mo Kio GRC team helmed by Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong. Together with Mr Ang Hin Kee, Mr Gan Thiam Poh, Dr Intan Azura Mokhtar, Mr Darryl David and Dr Koh Poh Koon, they polled 78.6 per cent.

8. Too close for comfort in Aljunied

Workers' Party chief Low Thia Khiang presents his party members on stage while thanking his supporters at Hougang Stadium on Sept 12, 2015. ST PHOTO: KUA CHEE SIONG

Even with all the debate over the financial lapses in management of the Aljunied-Hougang-Punggol East Town Council, many had expected the WP to retain Aljunied GRC .

It did - but only just, with 51 per cent, or a 2,612 vote margin.

The WP team led by secretary-general Low Thia Khiang were incumbents and included chairman Sylvia Lim.

It faced an unknown team, dubbed the "suicide squad", led by MP Yeo Guat Kwang and new faces Chua Eng Leong, K. Muralidharan Pillai, Shamsul Kamar and Victor Lye.

Probably even the WP themselves did not expect it to be this close. In an interview while counting was going on, Mr Low said the team was confident of a win.

The WP team won with 54. 7 per cent of votes in 2011.

9. Poorer than expected results for Dr Chee Soon Juan

Dr Chee Soon Juan at a Singapore Democratic Party rally for Bukit Batok SMC in Toh Guan Road on Sept 7, 2015. ST PHOTO: ONG WEE JIN

The votes garnered by the Singapore Democratic Party (SDP) team did not live up to the interest and buzz that had generated online over party chief Chee Soon Juan, who was contesting his first election in 15 years.

The SDP slate of Dr Chee, Mr Sidek Mallek, Dr Paul Tambyah and Ms Chong Wai Fung won just 33.4 per cent of the votes in Holland-Bukit Timah GRC. They lost to the incumbent PAP team led by Dr Vivian Balakrishnan, Mr Christopher de Souza, Mr Liang Eng Hwa and Ms Sim Ann.

10. 150 votes for Samir Salim Neji

What was unexpected was not so much that independent candidate Samir Salim Neji did not win, or even that he was the poorest performer in the three-cornered fight in Bukit Batok SMC.

The surprise, rather, was that the 45-year-old managing director of software firm Anaplan Asia managed, with no rallies and seemingly minimal campaigning, to garner 150 votes. That translates into 0.6 per cent of  the total votes in the single-seat ward.

But he still lost his election deposit.