SINGAPORE - For half of the People's Action Party's (PAP) candidates contesting in the 14 single-member constituencies (SMC), the 2020 General Election was a baptism of fire in different ways.
Political rookies Yip Hon Weng, former group chief of the Silver Generation Office under the Agency for Integrated Care, and Gan Siow Huang, Singapore's first female brigadier-general, were sent to contest the Yio Chu Kang and Marymount wards respectively.
Despite being untested in electoral battles, much less in solo ones, both candidates triumphed against their respective Progress Singapore Party (PSP) opponents Kayla Low and Ang Yong Guan.
This campaign was not the first for their PAP colleagues Henry Kwek, Patrick Tay, Melvin Yong, Liang Eng Hwa and Sun Xueling, who were all previously part of a group representation constituency (GRC). But it was their maiden experience being entrusted to defend the party's turf in single-seat constituencies across the island.
All were successful, winning seats in Kebun Baru, Pioneer, Radin Mas, Bukit Panjang and Punggol West respectively.
These results, coupled with victories by incumbents Amy Khor in Hong Kah North, Grace Fu in Yuhua, Lim Biow Chuan in Mountbatten, Tin Pei Ling in MacPherson, Sitoh Yih Pin in Potong Pasir and Murali Pillai in Bukit Batok meant the PAP captured 13 SMCs.
This dominance was tempered though.
In the 2015 election, in which the PAP won 12 of the 13 single seats, seven of the victories were secured with more than 70 per cent of the votes.
This year, that mark was crossed in only four SMCs: Radin Mas where Mr Yong won 74 per cent, Mountbatten where Mr Lim won 73.8 per cent, MacPherson where Ms Tin won 71.7 per cent and Yuhua where Ms Fu won 70.5 per cent.
Winning on his first attempt was not easy, said PAP's Mr Yip, 43, who beat fellow debutante Ms Low of PSP, after getting 61 per cent of the 24,256 votes in Yio Chu Kang. Ms Low, also 43, is a chartered accountant and former prisons officer.
Mr Yip, whom observers believe has the potential to be a political office-holder, paid tribute to his volunteers, campaign team and Ms Low "for her determination and putting up a commendable fight". He thanked the residents of Yio Chu Kang and promised to give his best "to make a difference to those I'm entrusted to care for".
This year's 14 SMCs is a record, an increase from 13 five years ago. Besides Yio Chu Kang, three are new; namely Kebun Baru, Marymount and Punggol West.
Mr Kwek, who secured 63 per cent of the 21,096 votes in Kebun Baru against PSP's Kumaran Pillai, is a familiar face though.
Kebun Baru was folded into Ang Mo Kio GRC in 1991 and redrawn into Nee Soon GRC in 2015, with Mr Kwek in charge of it since then.
In the only three-cornered fight for a single seat in this election - in 2015, there were three - PAP's Mr Tay emerged victorious in Pioneer with 62 per cent of the 18,507 votes, ahead of PSP's Mr Lim Cher Hong, who had 35.2 per cent.
Mr Cheang Peng Wah, the only independent candidate, got 2.8 per cent, below the 12.5 per cent required to keep his $13,500 election deposit.
Mr Tay, 48, was previously the MP for the Boon Lay ward in West Coast GRC since 2015 and moved over to Pioneer after four-term MP Cedric Foo stepped down. Mr Foo obtained 76.4 per cent of the votes in 2015 against National Solidarity Party's Elvin Ong.
Mr Tay said: "As a next step, I will work on the feedback that many residents have shared with me over the course of the campaign, be it on municipal issues or improvements on policies.
"There is much to be done, and I will do my best to work together with residents to build a Pioneer that we can be proud to call home. My immediate focus is to help residents with jobs, and navigate through this crisis."
It was a similar sentiment shared by Ms Sun in Punggol West, where she garnered 61 per cent of the votes against Workers' Party Ms Tan Chen Chen,
Ms Sun, 41, who has helmed the ward since her political debut as part of the Pasir Ris-Punggol GRC team in 2015, said: "I have worked hard in the past five years but I recognise that the next five years, we need new solutions and new collaborative efforts.
"We have a challenging environment to navigate and costs of living, jobs and livelihoods will continue to be areas I will focus on, while ensuring that we have a safe and valued home in Punggol West."