Here's why Workers' Party managed to win 46.59% of votes in East Coast GRC

Heng Swee Keat made the difference.

Martino Tan | July 11, 2020, 03:42 PM

The People's Action Party's (PAP) team, led by Deputy Prime Minister Heng Swee Keat, has won East Coast GRC with 53.41 per cent of the vote share.

Meanwhile, the Workers' Party's (WP) team garnered 46.59 per cent of the popular vote.

At first glance, this is perceived as an unexpectedly small margin of 6.82 per cent, considering the PAP decided to move Heng from his home ground of Tampines GRC in a surprise decision on Nomination Day -- presumably to hold the fort.

This sudden change was described by WP Secretary-General Pritam Singh as a "strategic surprise" on PAP's part, and said that this "says something about the PAP's assessment of the WP team in East Coast".

Similarly, WP's Nicole Seah described it as a last-minute "curveball", and she had to recollect her thoughts before her speech on June 29.

But a win is still a win.

The small margin of the win can be seen as a big victory of sorts for DPM Heng.

There are a number of reasons why it can be perceived as Heng doing well and WP doing less well: Heng reduced the national swing against PAP, won against an arguably even stronger team than the Sengkang GRC team, and achieved one of the best PAP results against WP.

Reducing the national swing against PAP

The People's Action Party (PAP)'s national vote share fell to 61.24 per cent, a drop of 8.66 per cent.

In 2015, the PAP East Coast GRC team achieved 60.7 per cent.

This election, the PAP East Coast GRC team scored 53.41 per cent, a drop of 7.29 per cent.

This is lower than the national average swing against the PAP.

Granted, this is not a like-for-like comparison.

This is because we are comparing the GE2020 results of five-member East Coast GRC team with a four-member East Coast GRC team.

What makes Heng's victory more impressive is that East Coast GRC absorbed an electorally poorer performing Fengshan SMC (it won 57.5 per cent in a 2015 landslide PAP victory).

WP fielded some of its best candidates here

The star of the WP's East Coast team is undoubtedly Nicole Seah, whose return to politics -- now as a young mother -- has stirred much interest on the internet due to her absence after making a splash in 2011.

Seah was previously a prominent candidate of the National Solidarity Party, who ran a strong campaign against the Marine Parade team helmed by Emeritus Senior Minister Goh Chok Tong, and her team won 43.4 per cent of the popular vote then.

Then 24, she was one of the most well-liked candidates, partly due to her age, personable image, eloquence, and powerful rally speeches.

Since being fielded as a WP candidate, Seah has managed to attract much media attention throughout the campaign period.

An interview she gave at her home where she sang a line from Hokkien song, "Ai pia cia eh yia", and shared more about how she had evolved over the years, garnered over 5,600 shares.

Aside from Nicole Seah, WP's East Coast team consists of Terence Tan, Dylan Ng, Kenneth Foo and Abdul Shariff Bin Aboo Kassim.

The first three are experienced members of WP, and previously contested in the 2015 election.

Tan is a member of WP's Central Executive Committee as well, while Foo was the GE 2015 Nee Soon GRC team leader.

In other words, this East Coast GRC team may be perceived by some as even stronger than the Sengkang GRC team.

Achieved one of the best PAP results against WP

Throughout the nine days of campaigning, Heng was spotted adhering to a gruelling schedule, canvassing the East Coast area day and night on his walkabouts.

Heng appeared popular on the ground as well, with numerous residents approaching him for photos and striking up conversations.

In the six constituencies that WP contested, they received 279,245 votes (50.49 per cent) to PAP's 273,873 votes (49. 51 per cent)

This means that a PAP candidate or a PAP team is more likely to lose in a head-to-head contest with WP.

But not Heng and his East Coast GRC team.

His 53.41 per cent score is 3.9 per cent better than the average of PAP's overall performance against WP.

And this was achieved against what is widely perceived as WP's B team.

Top photo from Nicole Seah / FB and Heng Swee Keat / FB