5 things to ponder over in Workers’ Party’s close shave at Aljunied GRC

We look at the performances of individual Aljunied wards and their candidates.

By Martino Tan | September 13, 2015

All photos by Edwin Koo.

It was a surprisingly close battle in Aljunied GRC as the People’s Action Party (PAP) team narrowly lost to the Workers’ Party ‘A’ team by just 2,612 votes.

WP Aljunied win

In the end, the WP team retained Aljunied GRC with a 50.95 percent vote share and a drop of 3.75 per cent from GE2011.

1. Aljunied GRC (50.95%) (54.7% in GE 2011) (3.75% drop)
2. Hougang SMC (57.7%) (62.1% in By-Election 2012) (4.4% drop)
3. Punggol East SMC (48.2%) (54.5% in By-Election 2013) (6.2% drop)

Among WP-held wards, Aljunied GRC experienced the smallest swing against them. This is against the backdrop of a 9.2% swing for the ruling People’s Action Party (PAP) nation-wide.

Aljunied GRC


Thanks to The Straits Times’ solid reporting, we now roughly know the number votes that were garnered in each of the five wards in Aljunied GRC.

For those who do not live in Aljunied GRC, here are the match-ups in each of the five constituencies

Bedok Reservoir: WP Chief Low Thia Khiang vs Victor Lye
Serangoon: WP Chairwoman Sylvia Lim vs PAP MP Yeo Guat Kwang
Paya Lebar: WP MP Chen Show Mao vs Muralidharan Pillai
Eunos: WP MP Pritam Singh vs Chua Eng Leong
Kaki Bukit: WP MP Faisal Abdul Manap vs Shamsul Kamar

Here are 5 things to ponder over in Workers’ Party’s close shave at Aljunied GRC.

1. WP heavyweights – Chairman Sylvia Lim and MP Chen Show Mao – are rumoured to have lost in their own wards

GE2015-Results-Edwin Koo-14

According to The Straits Times, Serangoon (Lim’s ward) and Paya Lebar (Chen’s ward) lost by about 300 votes each.

This was a surprise, especially for Lim’s Serangoon ward.

In fact, Serangoon was the best performer for WP in the last GE 2011, with the foreign dormitory issue nearby a hot political potato for former Minister Lim Hwee Hua.

Here are two questions for Lim to reflect upon:

1) Did Lim lose votes because she was the face of the Aljunied Hougang Punggol East Town Council (AHPETC)?

2) Did the prominence of MP Yeo Guat Kwang help? Yeo was the PAP candidate for Serangoon. Moreover, he is a former Aljunied GRC MP two GEs ago.

Lim, however, disagreed that AHPETC was an issue. She told the media before the start of Aljunied GRC’s Thank You procession yesterday:

[I]f the town council issue were to affect us we would see a bigger swing against us, she said highlighting the difference between the climb in PAP’s national vote share and the slide in WP-held constituencies vote share.


2. WP chief – Low Thia Khiang – saved the day at Bedok.

GE2015-Results-Edwin Koo-18

The Straits Times reported that Low “won in Bedok Reservoir by about more than 1,000 votes”.

Bedok reservoir was the blue-ribbon seat managed by former Foreign Minister George Yeo.

As an opposition MP since 1991 – in fact, he is on track to overtake Chiam See Tong as the longest-serving opposition MP in 2018- Low definitely know how to forge strong bonds with his residents on the ground.

Workers' Party walkabout at New Upper Changi Road market. 2015/09/09. #ge2015 #singapore #mothershipsg #singaporeson #edwinkoo
Workers’ Party walkabout at New Upper Changi Road market. 2015/09/09.
#ge2015 #singapore #mothershipsg #singaporeson #edwinkoo

Low’s opponent was Victor Lye, a prominent grassroots leader under Yeo who had been volunterring in Aljunied for 16 years.

But he is more famously known online as the potential candidate who distributed the AHPETC flyers in the dead of the night.

Grateful to our activists who worked though the night to help our residents understand the AHPETC audit issues by…

Posted by Victor Lye Thiam Fatt 赖添发 on Friday, March 13, 2015

Lye was also the only PAP Aljunied GRC candidate who got a bit flustered during PAP’s well-run GE campaign:

What kind of people would have done this? What kind of politics have we coming to us? What kind of politicians have such hooligans as supporters? Whither Singapore…

Posted by Victor Lye Thiam Fatt 赖添发 on Sunday, September 6, 2015

And his last campaign video before the cooling-off day?

Dear voters, Bring us home to Aljunied!

Posted by Victor Lye Thiam Fatt 赖添发 on Wednesday, September 9, 2015

Looks strangely familiar to Yeo’s last campaign video in 2011.



3. Pritam Singh swam against the national swing

GE2015-Results-Edwin Koo-20

With a national swing of 9.72% against the PAP, Pritam’s results in Eunos ward emerged intact.

According to The Straits Times, “Singh won his ward with a share of about 55 per cent”. It is a tremendous achievement because WP, as a team, won 54.7% in the 2011 GE.

His opponent in Eunos is Chua Eng Leong, senior bank officer and the son of former Cabinet minister Chua Sian Chin.

Did Chua’s relative inexperience with grassroots work play a part in the poor performance in Eunos? The Straits Times noted that Chua is the only one to be “parachuted” into the GRC in June, 2013.

In contrast, Chua’s teammates – Lye, lawyer K. Muralidharan Pillai – were all long-serving party activists before being asked to take over the Bedok Reservoir and Paya Lebar ward. Shamsul Kamar was also not a new face, having been a grassroots leader in Kaki Bukit from 2006 to 2011, when Associate Professor Muhammad Faishal Ibrahim was its MP.

And Pritam is not resting on his laurels.

A big thank you to all our residents and supporters in Aljunied and all over Singapore. Strong performance by the PAP…

Posted by Pritam Singh on Friday, September 11, 2015


4. Faisal Manap and Kaki Bukit

Among the WP ‘A’ team, Faisal had the lowest national profile. However, he “took over 1,000 more votes than his rival at Kaki Bukit”.

His rival was former Head of Department at Spectra Secondary School Shamsul Kamar.

Shamsul took over the Kaki Bukit ward on August 1, 2015, less than two months ago. Would Kahar Hassan, the prospective candidate for 16 months, have closed the gap?

Your guess is as good as mine.


5. The PAP candidate who came out of the Aljunied GRC loss with his reputation enhanced.


His name was used as rejoinder by former Minister Lim Boon Heng when Lim needed to highlight that the team lacks a “heavy-weight”.

Lim would compared K. Muralidharan Pillai, 47, against the three lawyers – Lim, Chen and Pritam – on the WP side.

Lim argued that Muralidharan is a “heavyweight” for he heads the litigation department at one of Singapore’s largest law firm Rajah & Tann and has 100 lawyers reporting to him.

In fact, Muralidharan, not Lye or Yeo, was the Aljunied GRC speaker profiled at PAP’s manifesto launch.

Muralidharan performed exceptionally, winning Chen’s Paya Lebar ward by about 300 votes.

Residents told The Straits Times today that some candidates had been present on the ground, with Muralidharan attending two wakes last night.

And what next for WP 2011 star candidate Chen?

Many of us had high expectations for Chen but our late founding Prime Minister Lee Kuan Yew may have a point after all:

“Chen, however, has not turned out to be so brilliant…In Parliament, he makes good prepared speeches, with a written script, but in the follow-up, he is all over the place. It simply does not gel for him…The weight of public expectation of the man, given his rather impressive résumé, has probably added to the disappointment.” Lee in One Man’s View of the World

Because even the votes from his family did not help him keep Paya Lebar in Aljunied GRC.

I get to vote for myself as MP in the coming GE. (Four years ago, my wife, my children and I moved into Aljunied to…

Posted by Chen Show Mao on Tuesday, September 8, 2015


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About Martino Tan

Martino’s parents named him after an Italian priest, Vatican's 1st ambassador to S’pore. He's inspired by the lives of Robert Kennedy & D. Bonhoeffer, the words of G.Orwell & T.Sorensen, & the music of the Beatles.

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