Workers’ Party (WP) chairperson Sylvia Lim revealed in a recent interview that the party was not expecting to win Sengkang GRC and that the momentum shifted during the campaign period, leading the party’s team at the ward to pull off a stunning upset.
The 2020 general election saw the WP make significant inroads even though prominent parliamentarians Low Thia Khiang, Chen Show Mao and Png Eng Huat stepped down from electoral politics. In what was the first election under the leadership of Pritam Singh, the WP held on to its Aljunied GRC-Hougang SMC stronghold and scored better than it did in the 2015 general election.
On top of winning a stronger mandate in the two wards it already held, the WP made history once again and clinched yet another GRC – the second multi-member constituency to ever be won by the opposition – when the WP team at Sengkang GRC won and unseated three political office-holders.
The four-member ward was newly carved out ahead of the election and was contested by three fresh faces from the WP – Jamus Lim, Raeesah Khan and Louis Chua – and one candidate who had run in one previous election, He Ting Ru. The WP team faced off with the ruling People’s Action Party (PAP) team that included three prominent political office-holders and one new candidate.
The WP team pulled off what seemed like an impossible feat when it emerged the victor at the polls, ousting Minister in the Prime Minister’s Office and labour chief Ng Chee Meng, Senior Minister of State Lam Pin Min and beloved grassroots MP Amrin Amin from Parliament.
In a recent interview with Bloomberg TV, WP leader Sylvia Lim said that the party did not expect to win another GRC and added that the team WP fielded at Sengkang resonated with the voters there. She said:
“We were not expecting to win that GRC but it looks like during the campaign the momentum shifted and because our team in that area matched the profile of the voters — meaning that the oldest candidate was 44, the youngest was 26, they are all parents of young children.”
On whether she felt younger voters contributed to the overall swing against the ruling party, Ms Lim said, “So, nationwide, I’m not able to say right now whether the younger voters tipped the balance overall, but I think certainly in that particular constituency, it made a big difference.”
Ms Lim felt that the election outcome showed that Singapore is ready for an inclusive government with diversity in views and expressed her belief that the ruling party’s “hard-line, combative campaigning” may have “backfired” among a younger generation of voters. She said: “We want a Singapore which is inclusive of different views. We have to find a way to be more accepting and to talk through our differences.”
Sharing that her party was “very pleased with the vote of confidence,” Ms Lim noted the criticism against the Government’s decision to hold an early election amid the COVID-19 crisis and said, “There was a sense that the majority of Singaporeans felt that the government should focus on controlling and handling the pandemic, rather than to have an election at this time because its term was still able to run until April next year.”
Although the opposition gave its best performance to date and made significant inroads in the latest election, Ms Lim said that it would take time for the opposition to become a true alternative to the PAP behemoth – which still holds 83 out of 93 seats in Parliament. She said:
“Rome wasn’t built in a day. A lot of how Singapore moves forward, whether the ruling party will have a smaller majority in parliament in the next few elections or whether it deteriorates to the point where the voters feel that another party is able to take over — this is all in the horizon — not so immediate.”
Expressing her view that Singaporeans take their vote seriously, Ms Lim said: “I think, what our elections have shown is that Singaporean voters in general take their vote very seriously. I don’t think they will, in general, vote just as a protest, but they will also look at what is at stake, who is providing the alternative and whether they think they can accept that person as their member of parliament.”
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