Mr Lee's death, SG50 helped sway voters: Dr Ng

Mr Lee's death, SG50 helped sway voters: Dr Ng
Dr Ng Eng Hen (centre) with the other four members of his Bishan-Toa Payoh GRC team (from left) Chee Hong Tat, Josephine Teo, Chong Kee Hiong and Saktiandi Supaat.
PHOTO: The Straits Times

The huge swing of votes towards the People's Action Party (PAP) at Friday's general election resulted, in part, from Singaporeans recognising how much the country had progressed since independence, party organising secretary Ng Eng Hen said yesterday.

And this realisation was all the more stark in light of the external environment, Dr Ng, who is defence minister, told reporters after visiting residents in his Bishan-Toa Payoh GRC to thank them for their support in GE2015.

He noted that events such as the jubilee celebrations and the death of first prime minister Lee Kuan Yew in March reminded many people of how far the nation had come.

"Especially when surrounding countries were having a lot of troubles, you saw the contrast helped bring home the message that Singapore is special," said Dr Ng.

He thinks this made Singaporeans "understand and appreciate and ask themselves also: Why is it we've done so well and what is it that has enabled us?"

And one answer, he said, was Singapore's stable political leadership and the way the system works.

The PAP's five-member team he led won 73.6 per cent of votes against a Singapore People's Party team, an upward swing of 16.7 percentage points from its 2011 result.

This was greater than the nearly 10 percentage point swing in votes that the PAP got at GE2015, which saw its national share of the popular vote reach 69.9 per cent, up from 60.1 per cent in GE2011.

Dr Ng, who was accompanied by teammates Josephine Teo, Chee Hong Tat, Chong Kee Hiong and Saktiandi Supaat, rode on lorries through Bishan and Toa Payoh, greeting and thanking residents and local merchants along the way.

He identified two other factors that might explain the swing.

One, PAP candidates had spent a lot of time on the ground listening to what residents wanted.

"It's vital that you take care of their interests," he said.

Two, the PAP has credible leaders with integrity in Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong and his Government, which has rolled out key policy changes over the last four years.

Dr Ng also thought the issue of town council management, which had been hotly debated during the campaign, was a significant factor.

"It's not only just about technical issues but how MPs must approach it (managing a town council) in a way that is open, accountable, transparent and with integrity," he said.

Asked if the results meant voters were not in favour of a two-party system, Dr Ng said Singaporeans were in favour of high standards.

"What voters are saying is that if you have good candidates then whether it's two, three or four parties, they must prove themselves to be credible, honest, have integrity. And then they will choose."

The PAP team in Tanjong Pagar GRC led by labour chief Chan Chun Sing, who is also party organising secretary, visited Pek Kio and Tanglin Halt markets yesterday. He and teammates Indranee Rajah, Chia Shi-Lu, Joan Pereira and Melvin Yong won 77.7 per cent of votes against a Singaporeans First team.

Said Mr Chan: "Singaporeans are very aware of the challenges that we have going forward, not just internal, but also external challenges. Because of that, Singaporeans know that the secret ingredient of our success over the last 50 years and for many years to come is our ability to maintain that unity."

Ms Indranee, who is Senior Minister of State for Law and Education, said the PAP had begun preparing for these challenges through policy shifts in housing, healthcare and education over the last five years.

This article was first published on September 13, 2015.
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