Despite a slate of impressive new candidates, and the tens of thousands of people attending its rallies, the Workers' Party (WP) could not emulate its breakthroughs of the 2011 General Election.
Of the 28 seats that the WP contested in the 2015 General Election, it lost Punggol East Single Member Constituency (SMC), and retained Aljunied Group Representation Constituency (GRC) and Hougang SMC by narrower margins. WP secured Aljunied by a margin of less than two per cent, or 50.95 per cent of the overall vote, falling from 54.72 per cent when it made history by being the first ever opposition party to win a GRC. Incumbent Png Eng Huat retained Hougang SMC with a 57.69 per cent vote share, a drop from 62.1 per cent in the 2012 by-election that he won.
WP's performance was a reflection of the reversals suffered by opposition parties in the election, which saw the ruling People's Action Party (PAP) garner a stronger than expected 69.86 per cent of the popular vote, winning by a convincing margin in every ward that it contested.
Workers' Party chief Low Thia Khiang tried to put a brave face on things, declaring himself "satisfied" with the party's performance. Speaking to reporters at Hougang Stadium at the end of polling night, Low said, "Despite the massive swing towards the PAP, we (with)stand the swing to return (in Aljunied). Yes, unfortunately, we lost Punggol East, but that's elections. You win, you lose. That is part and parcel of life".
He added, "And if you look at the result, with the massive swing, I think the Worker's Party has done pretty well...and I'm satisfied with the performance of the Workers' Party. I think the candidates conducted themselves very well at this election."
When asked what factors might have accounted for the popular swing back towards the PAP, Low said, "In my opinion, basically, the PAP has mitigated quite a lot of problems in the past. Although I said before, in the beginning of the election, that we have a more responsive government today, they have responded to the protest, I suppose, of 2011...they made many policy U-turns. And obviously, looking at the massive swing, I think the policy U-turn could have helped them to see what is the result today."
But what about the impact of the long-running Aljunied Hougang Punggol East Town Council (AHPETC) saga? "I am not able to assess conclusively because I think if you look at the result carefully...I think it is across the board. And if you are talking about how badly it could have affected us, we could have lost our seats, given the massive swing of more than 10 per cent," said Low.
Low had a message for the PAP, saying that it was important to build "trust" between the people and national institutions such as the civil service, the judiciary, the mainstream media. "Any politicisation of these institutions to gain political advantage, to me, is against the national interest of Singapore," he said.
When asked about WP's plans for the wards that it had lost, such as Punggol East SMC and East Coast GRC, Low said, "The Workers' Party is the Workers' Party. We will work, and we will work hard within our limits and our capability."