East Coast GRC

No close shave, no tears. Just smiles

Mr Lim Swee Say looking at the voters at the New Upper Changi Road polling station yesterday.
Mr Lim Swee Say looking at the voters at the New Upper Changi Road polling station yesterday.ST PHOTO: JAMIE KOH

At 7.30 last night at the People's Action Party branch in Bedok, administrator Nelly Wong told a colleague about a dream she had the night before.

"I dreamt that we won 60 per cent of the vote. All the voters I saw had nice, pleasant faces and were not angry," she said.

Her dream was prescient. A few hours later, the PAP team - led by Manpower Minister Lim Swee Say - trumped rivals from the Workers' Party to retain East Coast GRC with 60.73 per cent of the votes.

Around the same time that she talked about her dream, Mr Lim was in a car with his security officer. He had told staff and supporters that he would stop by the Bedok branch before heading out to a few of the counting centres in the East.

But anxiety probably got the better of him; he headed straight for Temasek Secondary School instead.

Half an hour later, he was seen leaving the counting centre in a black car, looking intently at the screen of his smartphone.

Intriguingly, he dropped plans to visit other centres and went back to the Bedok branch where he closed the door to his office. He was soon joined by his teammate, Senior Minister of State Lee Yi Shyan. When asked what big pow-wow they were having inside, an aide replied cryptically: "They're watching TV".

Mr Lim emerged at about 11 pm, a sweet in his mouth, and a big smile on his face. By then, a sample count had indicated that the PAP had managed 61 per cent of the vote in what had been touted as the hottest battle in the election.

Pundits had expected the WP - led by Mr Gerald Giam - to perform even better in its third bid for the GRC. At the 2011 polls, the WP got 45.17 per cent of the vote - up from 36.14 in 2006.

Heng ah?

Mr Lim scrunched his face into a mock grimace. The Hokkien colloquialism - used to express relief - had landed him into a pickle recently when he declared he was fortunate he was born in Singapore, and not Malaysia and China. "Eh, cannot use that word. Not at the moment. Please don't get me into trouble."

He was, he said, just grateful and relieved. "We've had very encouraging reactions on the ground during the nine days of campaigning. You could tell from the body language of the voters, the friendliness and the words of encouragement. But we were not sure if that would translate into votes for us."

"I'm just very grateful and very relieved. And we will never take this for granted," he said as he made his way to Bedok Stadium, an assembly centre for the PAP.

It was a sweet cap to a long day.

"I went to bed at 1.30am, but woke up in the middle of the night because of a very confusing dream. In the dream I could not figure out if it was a Monday or a Tuesday. When I woke up, it took me some time to realise it was actually Polling Day," said Mr Lim who spent the bigger part of the day visiting more than a dozen polling centres.

At Bedok Stadium, the minister was treated like a rock star as hordes surged to shake his hand, hug him and take selfies with him.

Housewife Peggy Leong said: "We were a little worried we might lose him because we saw the bookies' predictions, but deep in my heart, I knew people would be level-headed. He was really hardworking."

Though known for his propensity to break into tears, Mr Lim was happily composed last night. "I will head back and catch up on sleep. Tomorrow we must start showing my voters our appreciation. And on Monday, life goes on. We will have a meet-the-people session."

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on September 12, 2015, with the headline 'No close shave, no tears. Just smiles'. Print Edition | Subscribe