The ruling People’s Action Party lost the Punggol East by-election to the Workers’ Party in a dramatic victory for the opposition.
The vote was not even close. The Workers’ Party’s Lee Li Lian polled more than 16,000 votes against more than 12,000 votes for Koh Poh Koon of the People’s Action. Kenneth Jeyaretnam of the Reform Party secured over 300 votes and Desmond Lim of the Singapore Democratic Alliance fewer than 200 votes.
It’s a major win for the opposition Workers’ Party and a big loss for the ruling People’s Action Party, which launched a raft of reforms to address public concerns before the by-election and still lost the seat which it had won in the May 2011 general election. The Workers’ Party now has seven of the 87 elected seats in Parliament.
This is the second by-election since the May 2011 general election which the PAP won with 60 per cent of the vote, its lowest margin since independence. The PAP won 81 of the 87 seats up for election, losing six to the Workers’ Party – the highest the opposition had won since independence.
The Punggol East seat was won in 2011 by Michael Palmer of the PAP, who was then appointed Speaker of Parliament, but he stepped down after an extramarital affair, making a by-election necessary.
The government announced a slew of reforms addressing public concerns in the run-up to the by-election. The government rolled out new measures to curb property prices, raised cash bonuses for parents of newborn babies and introduced paternity leave, unveiled plans to expand the railway network – and yet lost the by-election.
While the PAP’s Koh was a newcomer to the constituency, Lee Li Lian of the Workes’ Party was a familiar face who secured 41 per cent of the vote in the 2011 election, losing to Michael Palmer, who won 54.5 per cent. Desmond Lim of the Singapore Democratic Alliance forfeited his deposit in that election, getting just 4.5 per cent of the vote.
Channel NewsAsia as Singapore’s only news channel and part of the government-backed MediaCorp broadcast constant updates , but it had little substantive to say.
The mainstream media was tardy in reporting the news.
The newspaper Today’s stopped liveblogging at 8.15 pm. 15 minutes after the polls closed. The Straits Times website reported two hours later the PAP and the Workers’ Party were running neck and neck.
Updates came from other sources on Twitter. Singapolitics tweeted around 10 pm: “Sources say it looks like a WP win: It’s ahead in 8 polling stations, and PAP ahead in 2…” The Straits Times retweeted Singapolitics: “WP source tells Singapolitics: “Confirmed, WP wins.”
Singapolitics tweeted after 10.30 pm: “Sources say that out of 5 stations counted, WP was ahead by 1,500 votes – if true, this is beyond 2% margin needed for recount.”
The election result was announced after 11 pm.