Decision day for Bukit Batok's 25,727 voters

Decision day for Bukit Batok's 25,727 voters
PHOTO: The Straits Times

IT is exactly eight weeks to the day since David Ong, the former People's Action Party (PAP) lawmaker, vacated his Bukit Batok parliamentary seat and resigned from the ruling party.

On Saturday, the 25,727 eligible voters of the single-member constituency (SMC) in western Singapore will once again have to exercise their duties as citizens to elect a new Member of Parliament (MP).

There are two faces on their poll cards, and they will have to mark that all-important "X" next to the one they believe is most capable of handling the demands of the job.

In one corner of the ring is the PAP's Murali Pillai, a 48-year-old who heads the commercial litigation department at law firm Rajah & Tann; in the other is the Singapore Democratic Party's (SDP) secretary-general Chee Soon Juan, a veteran politician five years older.

Over the past nine days of campaigning, and even well before that, both men spent the bulk of their waking hours - with fellow party members and volunteers in tow - combing every nook and cranny of the ward.

This is Mr Murali's second attempt to become an MP. He was appointed the PAP's branch chairman in Paya Lebar in 2012 and then deployed as part of the party's five-member team to contest in Aljunied at last September's general election (GE).

That team eventually came up short against the incumbents from the Workers' Party (WP), losing narrowly after a recount of the votes.

As for Dr Chee, he is taking part in his fifth election on the SDP ticket, and hoping for a much different result from his first four outings.

He first contested the Marine Parade by-election in 1992, and then the general elections in 1997, 2001 and 2015. He lost them all, pulling in 24.5 per cent, 34.86 per cent, 20.25 per cent and 33.4 per cent respectively.

Both candidates have endured a punishing schedule of late to get this far. Now, all that is left is for the by-election's Returning Officer, Energy Market Authority chief executive Ng Wai Choong, to announce the results at around 11pm or so.

In what is a first for a by-election in Singapore, the Elections Department will reveal the sample count result first, most likely before 10pm. This is derived from 100 ballot papers picked out at random from each of the nine polling stations.

These sample scores have been tallied for several elections but were first made public at last year's GE. They are meant to prevent speculation and misinformation from unofficial sources while counting is still going on.

Whoever emerges the winner on Saturday night will eventually be sworn in to join the other 88 elected MPs - 82 from the PAP and six from the WP - in the House, as part of Singapore's 13th Parliament.

This article was first published on May 7, 2016.
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