SINGAPORE – She has lived in Aljunied Group Representation Constituency (GRC) for over 20 years and considered herself a staunch People’s Action Party (PAP) supporter.
But watching her son struggle with the rising cost of living and finding affordable housing for his family, a 52-year-old retiree felt she needed a voice that would speak up for lower-income families like her own in Parliament. “Us sandwiched classes, who speaks up for us? The PAP is good but they have not done well with costs … things are expensive but wages are not keeping up,” she said.
Hence, she made the “difficult” decision to vote for the Workers’ Party (WP) on Polling Day on Saturday, she told Today. “They have a good team and I believe in the things they want to accomplish, like having more alternative voices in Parliament,” said the woman, who had voted for the PAP in previous parliamentary elections.
In interviews with Aljunied constituents the day after Polling Day, reasons like the woman’s cropped up as residents – some of whom have lived in the constituency for nearly 30 years – shared why they thought the WP emerged victorious.
Some had wrestled with their decision, one saying he was in two minds even as he approached the polling booth with his ballot.
LACKING A LISTENING EAR?
A common source of unhappiness that surfaced unprompted among those interviewed was Minister Mentor Lee Kuan Yew’s comment that if Aljunied residents voted for the WP, they had five years to “live and repent”.
“People were already feeling like PAP was arrogant and wasn’t listening, and the comment seemed to confirm our feelings,” said Ms Fiona Goh, 42, who works in manufacturing.
Some were also dissatisfied with their personal brushes with their respective Members of Parliament (MPs).
Ms Goh, said her encounter with Mrs Lim Hwee Hua during a dialogue session about the controversial foreign workers’ dormitory being built at Serangoon Gardens had left her feeling that her views had not been heard.
“She repeated the actions they would take and explained why they needed a dorm … They had already made up their mind to just do it,” she said.
According to media reports, Mrs Lim pulled in the lowest share of votes from her Serangoon division, followed by Madam Cynthia Phua from her Paya Lebar division.
However, other residents said they had no problems with their MPs, with several expressing admiration for Foreign Affairs Minister George Yeo. “He seems very genuine,” said one resident. “It was really a dilemma.”
On the flip side, auditor Dennis Sim, 27, said he was impressed that WP candidate Sylvia Lim, who was also part of the WP team that contested Aljunied in 2006, “didn’t just disappear” after the elections. “She maintained her presence in the estate and visited my house … she came across as sincere.”
And financial advisor Eugene Ng, 31, who lived near Opposition-held Hougang, felt that the single-seat ward was not the “slum” PAP had made out the place to be. “Low Thia Khiang has done a good job … I think that kind of fear-mongering just didn’t sit well with people,” he said.
NATIONAL ISSUES MORE IMPORTANT
Indeed, for voters like Ms Koh Sock Ling, 29, who has lived in Aljunied all her life, it was the broader national issues that decided her vote. “The fear-mongering tactics, the need to have more alternative representation in Parliament, these were all things WP spoke about that are personally important to me,” said Ms Koh, a customer service representative. “The estate issues are not such a big deal.”
Added Mr Ng: “It was not easy to choose … many people think George Yeo is capable but it’s good to have a check on the Government.”
Ms Fauzlin, a stay-at-home mother of two, said that, while she had considered the PAP team’s Zainul Abidin Rasheed’s “good relationship” with the Malay-Muslim community, she was more interested in whether the team could address her concerns about the rising cost of living and a Singapore growing more crowded from the influx of foreigners.
Online resources such as election rally videos were cited as a useful tool by several residents in helping them evaluate the candidates and parties.
“You could form your own opinion of a candidate based on how they spoke,” said Desmond, 23, a national serviceman. “It wasn’t based on what people tell you to believe.”