By Gabriel Choo
SINGAPORE — From shocking victories by the opposition to controversial incidents involving election candidates, Yahoo News Singapore takes a look back at some of the most dramatic moments during past General Election (GE) seasons over the years.
Biggest opposition win since independence – GE1991
In an unprecedented victory, GE1991 saw the opposition winning four single seats, as many voters expressed a desire for more alternative voices in Parliament.
The Singapore Democratic Party (SDP) scored major gains, winning three seats in the Potong Pasir, Nee Soon Central and Bukit Gombak Single Member Constituency (SMC). The party won Nee Soon Central by the slimmest of margins, with its candidate Cheo Chai Chen winning by just 168 votes, or 50.3 per cent against the ruling People’s Action Party’s (PAP) Ng Pock Too. SDP Secretary-General Chiam See Tong retained his Potong Pasir seat while Ling How Doong won Bukit Gombak. It was the SDP's best ever GE performance.
The last opposition seat was filled up by Low Thia Khiang of the Workers’ Party (WP), who won in Hougang. It marked Low’s entry in Parliament and he went on to become MP for almost 29 years including for Aljunied Group Representation Constituency (GRC).
GE1991 marked the biggest seat loss for the PAP since Singapore’s independence. It was a huge setback for then Prime Minister Goh Chok Tong, less than a year after he became the country’s leader in November 1990.
At a press conference after the GE, PM Goh attributed the loss to his "open and consultative style of government" and promised to re-examine his approach.
Tang Liang Hong vs PAP heavyweights – GE1997
During the GE1997 campaign, WP candidate Tang Liang Hong was criticised by PM Goh of being a “Chinese chauvinist”. In his defence, Tang claimed that he was merely making comments in support of Chinese-educated people.
Tang ran as a candidate in the WP team in Cheng San GRC and lost to the PAP, with 45.2 per cent of the votes.
After the GE, Tang was sued by PAP heavyweights Goh, Senior Minister Lee Kuan Yew, Deputy Prime Ministers Lee Hsien Loong and Tony Tan and several other PAP members. They sued Tang for defamation and accused him of making unreasonable statements that cast doubts on their integrity during the GE campaign.
Facing rising litigation costs, Tang fled Singapore and went on a self-imposed exile to Australia. He has not returned to Singapore since.
Chee Soon Juan shouting at Goh Chok Tong – GE2001
SDP chief Dr Chee Soon Juan was involved in a controversial incident when he used a megaphone to shout at PM Goh during a walkabout. "Mr Goh! Mr Goh! Come here, Mr Goh! I want to talk with you, come here! Where is our money, Mr Goh? You can run but you cannot hide,” Chee called out at Goh.
Dr Chee alleged that Goh had lent $17 billion to the late Indonesian President Suharto.
Running as one of the SDP candidates in Jurong GRC, Dr Chee only won 20.3 per cent of the votes at GE2001. The SDP was also unsuccessful in two other constituencies which it contested that year.
Goh and Lee Kuan Yew subsequently sued Chee for defamation in two separate cases. Lee labelled Chee as "a liar, a cheat and all together an unscrupulous man". Chee was later declared a bankrupt when he failed to pay $500,000 in damages from the two cases and left the political scene.
Dr Chee would return to election campaigning in GE2015 when he contested and lost in the Holland-Bukit Timah GRC.
James Gomez’s ‘lost’ application form – GE2006
A member of the Workers' Party, James Gomez was embroiled in a controversy when he was applying to run in GE2006. Gomez had accused the Elections Department (ELD) of losing his minority-race candidate's application form.
Making a scene, Gomez warned that there would be “consequences” if the ELD had misplaced his form. But CCTV footage evidence showed that Gomez had put the form in his bag and left the ELD’s premises without submitting it.
Gomez was forced to apologise and claimed that he was busy and became distracted. He was one of the WP candidates for Aljunied GRC at GE2006 and the party lost to the PAP, with 43.9 per cent of the votes.
After the election, Gomez was questioned by the police for his alleged criminal intimidation and let off with a stern warning.
Workers’ Party’s historic GRC win – GE2011
Since the GRC system came into effect in 1988, the opposition had failed to win a multi-member constituency until GE2011. The WP made history when it won the 5-member Aljunied GRC with 54.7 per cent of the votes against a strong PAP team led by Ministers George Yeo and Lim Hwee Hua.
Together with its victory in Hougang SMC, the WP won a total of six seats in parliament – the best parliamentary performance by an opposition party since Singapore’s independence.
The PAP won 81 out of 87 seats, and registered its lowest ever share of overall votes at 60.1 per cent.
PM Lee and the PAP’s secretary-general said in a post-election press conference that many Singaporeans desired to see more opposition voices in parliament, and he would “accept and respect the voters’ decisions”.
WP’s Low declared its wins in Aljunied and Hougang as a "political landmark in modern Singapore", and called on the PAP to be a more “responsive, inclusive, transparent and accountable government”.
PAP comeback in first GE after death of Lee Kuan Yew – GE2015
Buoyed by the GE2011 results, opposition parties contested all seats at the 2015 General Election – the first time it has happened since Singapore’s independence in 1965.
However, it was their turn to suffer a setback, as PAP won 83 out of 89 seats with 69.9 per cent of the popular votes – a dramatic 9.7 per cent improvement from the previous GE. They also reclaimed the Punggol East SMC from WP, which retained Hougang SMC but barely held on to Aljunied GRC.
Analysts attributed PAP’s strong showing to two factors. The first was the death of founding prime minister Lee Kuan Yew six months before the election. His passing sparked a strong surge of appreciation among Singaporeans for what he and the PAP had done for the country.
The second was the round-the-year celebrations of the 50th anniversary of Singapore’s independence, which similarly gave a boost for the PAP in reminding the public of how much progress the country has made under their governance.
PAP would-be candidate Ivan Lim withdraws – GE2020
From the time Ivan Lim was introduced as a PAP candidate for the GE, he was beset by multiple allegations about his character.
Several online posts - purportedly from former colleagues, people who have served under him in National Service, and his acquaintances - have accused him of being arrogant, elitist and lacking compassion.
His campaign was over within just three days from his official introduction.
Initially maintaining that he was determined to stay the course last Saturday, he changed his mind just hours later when he wrote in a letter to PM Lee that he was withdrawing his candidacy. In his letter, he said that the controversy has “caused intense pain and stress” for his family. PM Lee described the controversy as “unfortunate”.
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