Worse-than-expected results take opposition by surprise

Worse-than-expected results take opposition by surprise
The mood was sombre as SingFirst's party members held a press conference at its operations centre in Tras Street.
PHOTO: The Straits Times

It was a dismal showing all round for the lesser-known opposition parties.

The disappointment was so great that the National Solidarity Party (NSP) suddenly stopped contact with the media once results were announced yesterday; Singapore Democratic Alliance's (SDA) chief Desmond Lim went home before official results emerged; and the Reform Party's (RP) Ang Mo Kio candidate Osman Sulaiman was seen in tears as he left a counting centre.

The RP team standing against Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong's line-up in Ang Mo Kio Group Representation Constituency (GRC) scored just 21.37 per cent of the vote - down from 30.67 per cent in 2011. It scored 21.43 per cent in West Coast GRC, down from 33.43 per cent in 2011. In the three-way battle for Radin Mas single-member constituency (SMC), RP's Kumar Appavoo came away with just 12.71 per cent of the votes.

Party chief Kenneth Jeyaretnam said the party had fewer volunteers compared with 2011 and that it had lost the Clementi ward in which it scored particularly high in the last elections. "Basically we put this down to the novelty wearing off, of a new party," he told Channel NewsAsia last night. "But now I see it's absolutely nationwide. There's been a huge swing to the PAP.

"All this is a mandate for authoritarianism and brainwashing... I guess Singaporeans get the government they deserve, so I don't want to hear any more complaints."

The SDA also proved no match for the People's Action Party (PAP) team in Pasir Ris-Punggol GRC, anchored by Deputy Prime Minister Teo Chee Hean. On its third time contesting the GRC, it garnered just 27.11 per cent of the votes, down from the 35.21 per cent in 2011.

The party's chief media officer Harminder Pal Singh blamed five factors: The SG50 feel-good effect, the effect of the passing of Singapore's founding Prime Minister Lee Kuan Yew this year, the carving out of areas that gave high support to their party in 2011, swing votes from new citizens, and the "constant harping" on the town council issue by the PAP.

The NSP, meanwhile, was dragged down by its decision to pursue a three-cornered fight in MacPherson SMC. Its candidate there, Mr Cheo Chai Chen, received just 215 votes, or 0.82 per cent, not enough to retain his $14,500 election deposit. The deposit will be forfeited if a candidate receives less than 12.5 per cent of the votes in their constituency.

The party was also handicapped by at least eight high-profile departures since the last general election, including that of then-acting secretary-general Hazel Poa, after the party's U-turn over the decision to pursue MacPherson SMC. Then, Mr Cheo sparked a backlash when he said that PAP rival Tin Pei Ling's new status as a mother was a weakness.

The party, which fielded 12 candidates, obtained23.66 per cent of the vote in Pioneer SMC and 27.72 per cent in Sembawang. Its best score was 27.94 per cent in Tampines.

The People's Power Party (PPP), led by Mr Goh Meng Seng, scored 23.11 per cent of the votes in the only constituency it contested, Chua Chu Kang GRC - a substantially lower score than NSP's 38.8 per cent in 2011. But Mr Goh said that they were surprised at the number of voters who chose them, considering they lacked branding and media coverage.

Singaporeans First (SingFirst) was also surprised, but by its low score. The party fought its battle in two PAP strongholds, scoring 22.29 per cent in Tanjong Pagar and 20.72 per cent in Jurong.

Tanjong Pagar GRC, which saw a walkover in 2011, until now had never been contested since its formation in 1991.

Last night, the mood was sombre at the SingFirst's operations centre in Tras Street as the party's 10 candidates streamed back from their counting centres looking resigned.

SingFirst secretary-general Tan Jee Say said: "We are very surprised and disappointed with the results. Even though we are one year old, results were worse than expected. The results were contrary to ground sentiment. We need to rethink our strategy."






This article was first published on Sept 12, 2015.
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