Singapore GE2020: PAP women candidates in SMCs hold their own against opponents

SINGAPORE – Women candidates that the People’s Action Party fielded in single-seat constituencies have prevailed against their opponents.

One of the most closely watched contests was in newly created Marymount SMC, where both candidates had a military background.

First-time PAP candidate Gan Siow Huang, 45, Singapore’s first woman general, won 55.04 per cent of the votes there against former colonel Ang Yong Guan, 65, from the Progress Singapore Party (PSP), who garnered 44.96 per cent. This was his third time at the polls.

Ms Gan, a mother of three, joined the National Trades Union Congress’ Employment and Employability Institute in April as deputy chief executive officer. She had resigned from the Republic of Singapore Air Force, where she was Chief of Staff – Air Staff in March.

She has been tipped for higher political office if elected, and is only the second political rookie that the PAP has fielded in a single seat since 1988, when the group representation constituency system was introduced. Ms Cheryl Chan stood in Fengshan in 2015.

The constituency, which was carved out of Bishan-Toa Payoh GRC this year, has 23,444 voters. It comprises the Housing Board blocks in Bishan streets 22 to 25, Shunfu and parts of Sin Ming, and has amenities such as Marymount MRT station, schools like Catholic High School and Eunoia Junior College, and Marymount Community Club.

The single-member constituency will be managed by the same town council as that for nearby Bishan-Toa Payoh GRC to ensure cost-effectiveness and maintenance standards.

In the lead-up to polling day, Ms Gan had said that she would like to work towards more support for the elderly and their caregivers. Her parents-in-law are cancer survivors in their 70s.

Another issue she wants to tackle is jobs, saying that in a crisis like the Covid-19 pandemic, Singaporeans should come first.

Residents can also look forward to neighbourhood renewal programmes, upgrading of the Thomson Community Club, new cycling tracks and a covered walkway from Bishan MRT station to Bishan North Shopping Mall, as well as a new polyclinic in Bishan.

Asked about the narrow win against Dr Ang, she said: “I didn’t have expectations about the margin. What I really focused on was trying to reach out to the residents and working with my team to get the residents’ support. As a newcomer, someone who the residents may not be familiar with, I think it’s not bad.”

The newbie politician also told The Straits Times that she felt “very well-supported” during the campaign.

“During the campaign period, when I met the residents, many of them were very warm and friendly towards me and I have a great team, the same team that had been supporting minister Josephine Teo,” she said.

“We’re very excited and happy to be able to continue to serve the residents here.”

She is getting right down to business.

“One of the things I need to do is to prepare to do Meet-the-People Sessions, so that residents who are in need will be able to get help quickly,” she said. “I also want to touch base with agencies such as the HDB and LTA so I can better understand and also shape the future developments of Marymount.”

The top performer among women candidates in SMCs was the PAP’s Ms Tin Pei Ling, 36, who garnered 71.74 per cent of the votes in MacPherson against Mr Goh Meng Seng, 50, from the People’s Power Party, who had 28.26 per cent.

She was first elected in 2011, and prevailed in a three-cornered fight in the constituency in 2015.

Her constituents can look forward to dialogues and workshops later this year, where PMETs (professionals, managers, executives and technicians) and job seekers can get advice from career counsellors.

Other programmes include a coding programme for children from lower-income families. Also, 100 lower-income households in MacPherson will pay half their electricity bills for a year, with the other half covered by licensed energy retailer Sunseap Energy. The local firm, which is a subsidiary of solar energy solutions provider Sunseap Group, will also provide these homes with solar energy, as part of a social initiative to provide clean and affordable energy to households.

Asked if she had expected to win by such a large margin, Ms Tin told reporters that she did not have any expectations and was grateful to the residents of MacPherson for standing by her since 2011.

Ms Grace Fu, 56, Minister for Culture, Community and Youth, prevailed in Yuhua, winning 70.54 per cent of the votes against the Singapore Democratic Party’s Mr Robin Low, 44, who got 29.46 per cent.

She is the only full minister contesting a single-seat constituency in this general election, and has been the incumbent MP for the last 14 years.

About 8,000 residents, who make up a quarter of the ward, are older than 60, and she had pledged to look at improving “last mile” facilities for them. This, for instance, means barrier-free access for seniors to reach a taxi in the carpark, or for an ambulance to get to patients.

Speaking to ST, she said: “I’m very grateful for the mandate and thankful for the support given by my residents and activists, who were very encouraging during the campaign period.

“I know that many voters and residents are concerned regarding public health and the economic repercussions. There were a lot of concerns raised and in the nine days of campaigning, we weren’t able to listen to them in detail, so over the next few months, we’ll make ourselves accessible.”

Asked about the 3 percentage point drop from the 2015 results, she said: “I think there was a general mood swing among voters. There are some concerns about the pandemic and voters are generally worried and affected by the safe distancing measures. There is some uneasiness, anxiety and stress that manifested in the vote outcome.”

The PAP’s Ms Sun Xueling, 41, Senior Parliamentary Secretary for Home Affairs and National Development, won 60.97 per cent of the votes in newly created Punggol West, beating her opponent, Workers’ Party candidate Tan Chen Chen, who received 39.03 per cent.

In Hong Kah North, the contest was between Dr Amy Khor, 62, Senior Minister of State for Health and the Environment and Water Resources, and the PSP’s Ms Gigene Wong, 54, chief executive of Gulf Oil China and the chief financial officer of Foshan Electrical and Lighting, which is listed on the Shenzhen Stock Exchange. She returned to Singapore early this year, after 20 years in China.

The first-time candidate was, however, no match for Dr Khor, who won 60.98 per cent of the votes against Ms Wong’s 39.02 per cent. She had been one of the top performers in the 2015 General Election, garnering 74.76 per cent of the votes against Mr Ravi Philemon, who ran on the Singapore People’s Party ticket that year.

Dr Khor’s campaign focused on the projects that she will be rolling out for the constituency in the next five years, including a polyclinic, a hawker centre and a garden for people with dementia.

In Yio Chu Kang, PSP candidate Kayla Low, 43, a chartered accountant and former prisons officer contesting her first election, took 39 per cent of the votes against the PAP’s Mr Yip Hon Weng, 43, who garnered 61 per cent.

Singapore GE2020: Get full election coverage on our dedicated site here.

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