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Chee Soon Juan hopes Bukit Batok SMC will not disappear by the next polls

There are fears the hotly-contested ward will be absorbed into a GRC before the next general election

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Singapore Democratic Party (SDP) Secretary-General Chee Soon Juan has expressed hope that Bukit Batok SMC will not disappear from the electoral map by the time the next elections are called.

Dr Chee has twice stood for election in the Single-Member Constituency in the recent past. The first time was during the 2016 by-election, which was called after the People’s Action Party incumbent resigned due to an extramarital affair with a grassroots member.

The PAP fielded Mr Murali Pillai in the by-election and he won with 61.2 per cent of the vote. Mr Murali did not fare so well when he faced off with Dr Chee again in the recent General Election but was returned to Parliament with 54.8 per cent of the vote.

This time, Dr Chee was among the best performing opposition candidates who failed to win a ward. His score of 45.2 per cent was a personal best since he first contested elections in 1997.

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After the elections, Dr Chee said he intended to remain in Bukit Batok SMC and re-contest the ward in the next general election. He also launched a grassroots campaign to help Bukit Batok residents and began to raise funds for the initiative.

While Dr Chee plans to stay in Bukit Batok SMC for the long haul, there are fears that the hotly-contested ward will be absorbed into a larger multi-member ward — like Jurong GRC — ahead of the next general election.

An example of electoral lines being redrawn in a hotly-contested ward is Joo Chiat. This was a single-member ward from 1959 to 1988, until it was merged with neighbouring constituencies to form Bedok GRC. Ahead of the 2001 General Election, it was carved out of Bedok GRC and made into an SMC once again.

Joo Chiat SMC saw its hottest contest ever in the 2011 General Election when the Workers’ Party’s (WP) Yee Jenn Jong faced the PAP’s Charles Chong. Mr Chong was a veteran MP with decades of political experience and Mr Yee was a new candidate stepping into the political fray for the first time.

It was an extremely close fight and the PAP won Joo Chiat SMC very narrowly with 51 per cent of the vote. Despite his loss, Mr Yee’s performance was one of the best among losing opposition candidates and he was entitled to become a Non-Constituency Member of Parliament.

Mr Yee continued to walk the ground at Joo Chiat SMC and planned to stand in the ward again in the subsequent elections but Joo Chiat was absorbed into Marine Parade GRC ahead of the 2015 General Election. The WP contested Marine Parade GRC in the past two elections but failed to capture the multi-member ward.

As observers fear a similar fate for Bukit Batok SMC, Dr Chee has publicly put on record his hope that the ward will not cease to exist before the next elections. Calling on Singaporeans to keep the Government accountable, he wrote on Facebook: “I’m willing to commit the next five years working in BB, and I look forward to facing Mr Murali (or whomever is the candidate) again at the polls.

“I hope that the PAP will not gerrymander the constituency or, worse, cause the SMC to disappear. The PAP has done this once too often and the use of the electoral map as its playground must end. Singaporeans must see to this.”

This morning: Met with BB residents and volunteers one week after the mashed-potatoes fundraiser to talk about community…

Posted by Chee Soon Juan 徐顺全 on Saturday, 8 August 2020

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