SINGAPORE — While 10 opposition seats may represent uncharted territory for Singapore’s Parliament, it is still not a “quantum leap”, said Workers’ Party (WP) chief Pritam Singh on Saturday (11 July), in the wake of the opposition party’s best ever performance in the General Election (GE).
“I think that number is still far short of the one third that is significant for being able to make a position, strong position on, let's say, constitutional amendment bills, for example. It's still not exactly a quantum leap, if you know what I mean,” said Singh.
Speaking to reporters outside the WP HQ in the early hours of the morning, Singh struck a sombre note in spite of the party’s performance, emphasising the need for humility from the party’s winning candidates.
“I'm not feeling euphoric at all. In fact, I think there's a lot of work to do. And I think we've got to work hard, we've got to keep our feet grounded and this is something that I'll be repeating to all the winning candidates. I expect them to keep their feet firmly grounded, and remember why they're doing what they're doing.”
The ruling People’s Action Party (PAP) suffered its worst electoral performance since independence in terms of the number of seats lost to the opposition, as the WP claimed a stunning victory in Sengkang Group Representation Constituency, only the second GRC lost by the PAP since the scheme began in 1988. WP also retained Aljunied GRC and Hougang, a single-member ward.
The PAP won 61.24 per cent of the votes cast and 83 seats out of 93 at the GE held amid the COVID-19 pandemic. Its vote share was a sharp drop from 69.9 per cent in GE2015.
Asked if he was surprised by the result and if the PAP’s decreased vote share reflected voters’ assessment of its performance over the past five years, the 43-year-old stressed that he had expected a difficult election. Nevertheless, the results also showed that the WP’s message has resonated with Singaporeans.
“I wouldn't go so far as to connect the vote share this time around to the PAP's performance over five years. But I think over time the public also have become au fait with our brand of politics and that's probably what I'm most satisfied about.”
Town Council handover
Aljunied GRC, which the WP narrowly retained in 2015, was won this time with a resounding 59.93 per cent of the votes. Asked to comment on the result, Singh, who anchored the Aljunied team, pledged, “Instead of focusing on the 60 per cent, I will focus on the 40 per cent who didn't vote for us.
“I think we should remember that this election is held in actually very difficult times. I don't think we've felt the full impact of the COVID-19 fallout yet. There are difficult months ahead, and we will have to reach out to everybody if we want to come together as one united people.”
In terms of the immediate priorities for Aljunied and Hougang, WP will be reviewing the strategic master plan for both constituencies for the next five years, with about $15 million dollars worth of upgrading projects already committed to by the Housing Development Board.
A new town council will also have to be created for Sengkang, a new GRC which consists of now-defunct SMCs – Sengkang West and Punggol East – and the Sengkang Central ward from Pasir Ris–Punggol GRC. “There's much work to be done there but I don't want to jump the gun on that because I think it's only appropriate that I confer with the Sengkang team to decide how we want to proceed with Sengkang.”
But is the WP chief concerned that there will be another difficult handover from the existing town councils, just as in 2011 in Aljunied? The handover issues from that period resulted in the long-running Aljunied-Hougang Town Council (AHTC) saga, the fallout from which is still being felt today.
Singh noted, “Since 2011, I think even the Ministry of National Development has acknowledged that there is room for improvement in terms of the handover between town councils. I think certain guidelines have already been introduced. And I think we will go into that transition in good faith.
“But it's a good point. I think the experience of 2011 should make us wiser as to how we should manage the handover, and we'll keep that in mind.”
A total of 192 candidates – from 11 parties and one independent candidate – contested 93 seats across 17 group representation constituencies and 14 single-member constituencies.
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