SINGAPORE - The ruling People's Action Party's (PAP) move to field a first-time candidate in the new Yio Chu Kang single-member constituency - one of the more keenly watched single-seat wards - has paid off, with new face Mr Yip Hon Weng garnering 61 per cent of the votes on Saturday (July 11).
The 43-year-old had gone into the contest expecting a tough fight against the Progress Singapore Party's (PSP) Ms Kayla Low, a fellow newcomer. She got 39 per cent, or 9,500, of the 24,256 votes.
Mr Yip, the former group chief of the Silver Generation Office under the Agency for Integrated Care, had earlier acknowledged that it is not easy being a first-time candidate fielded in the SMC.
The new constituency was carved out of Ang Mo Kio GRC.
He told The Straits Times: "I am happy with the result. I think it is reflective of the team effort. It is not easy being a newcomer in an SMC. In a way, the team here has helped me quite a fair bit throughout the nine days of campaigning.
"We have put in our best efforts to cover ground here in Yio Chu Kang, and that we've managed to cover all the blocks, condominiums and landed estates here in Yio Chu Kang. I am happy with the results and credit goes to the campaign team that has helped me tirelessly over the past few weeks."
One benefit of contesting an SMC was that it gave him some say in how he wanted to run his campaign, he added.
"Once elected, I would have a say in how plans are done here in the SMC itself. I don't think being new or being old is an issue running an SMC. I think I bring with me a wealth of experience from the public sector to the SMC.
"I am quite excited to help residents here, and I think that's the most important thing - how to help residents here with their needs and concerns and suggestions. Over the past nine days, I have met many residents and we have collected quite a lot of suggestions, and I hope to really act on them in the coming weeks and months."
He also paid tribute to his volunteers, campaign team and Ms Low “for her determination and putting up a commendable fight”.
Earlier this month, he shared his plans to support elderly residents in the community. These plans include taking care of their mental well-being, fostering more inter-generation interaction between the youth and the elderly, and helping senior caregivers access resources and help.
As the population ages, there may also be more seniors who will be socially isolated and in need, and care has to be made affordable and accessible to them, he said.
An estimated 40 per cent of the SMC is made up of senior citizens from the Merdeka and Pioneer generations.
The area also has about 70 blocks of flats, seven condominiums and two private estates.
Mr Yip, whom observers believe has the potential to become a political office-holder, also has plans for the younger residents, including ways to get the youth to help others with their studies, for instance.
His rival, Ms Low, who is also 43, is a chartered accountant and former prisons officer. She had pushed for issues like welfare and job security during her campaign, noting that the Covid-19 pandemic has caused many Singaporeans to lose their jobs. She volunteers with low-income families and the elderly.
A three-cornered fight was averted when the Reform Party (RP) did not field a candidate for the SMC.
At the 2015 election, a six-member PAP team for Ang Mo Kio GRC led by Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong defeated an RP team with 78.6 per cent of the vote.
Yio Chu Kang, a traditional PAP stronghold, was previously helmed by Senior Minister of State for Trade and Industry Koh Poh Koon, who moved to contest in Tampines GRC.
The Yio Chu Kang ward has been in and out of Ang Mo Kio GRC. In 1991, it became part of the GRC, but was carved out again in 2006. Five years later, it rejoined the GRC.
At the 2006 general election, the PAP's Mr Seng Han Thong won the Yio Chu Kang seat with 68.3 per cent of the vote, beating Singapore Democratic Alliance's Mr Yip Yew Weng.