Saturday, May 7, 2011

potong pasir election Anger and disbelief as Potong Pasir falls to PAP

SINGAPORE - In past General Elections, the coffeeshop at Block 136 in Potong Pasir was often the scene of celebration late into the night, as it was not far from where the single-seat ward's long-standing Member of Parliament, Mr Chiam See Tong, would make his victory speeches.

But this morning, the mood at the coffeeshop was one of anger and disbelief at news that the long-time Opposition ward, which was being defended by Mr Chiam's wife, Lina, had fallen to the People's Action Party by a razor-thin margin of 114 votes.

Talk that Mr Chiam's Singapore People's Party (SPP) had lost the seat began around 1am, causing much anxiety among his supporters who had gathered at the coffeeshop since the evening.

When the results were officially announced on television at around 3am - Mrs Chiam said the SPP had asked for a recount because "the gap was too narrow" - groans and moans could be heard among the crowd, some of whom were openly crying. Many left in a huff.

But there were also those who refused to concede defeat - they began cheering and chanting the names of Mr and Mrs Chiam.

Minutes later, as Mrs Chiam and the SPP team for Bishan Toa-Payoh Group Representation Constituency, which was led by Mr Chiam, came round on a lorry, louder cheers erupted as the crowd rushed towards them.

As cameras started flashing and supporters garlanded her with flowers, Mrs Chiam said: "I have kept up a good fight and we've done what we could. But we will be back."

As to whether she would take a Non-Constituency Member of Parliament seat - since she garnered the highest number of votes among the losing candidates - Mrs Chiam said she would discuss the matter with her party members before making a decision.

As Mrs Chiam, 62, made her way through the boisterous crowd, some gave her a hug. She started to tear but held a smile throughout as she apologised to supporters for not doing well enough.

Some of the Chiams' supporters in Potong Pasir did not take her defeat too well.

Mrs Chua S K, 40, who has lived in the constituency for 18 years, said: "I will miss them terribly, their presence of being around in the coffeeshops, sipping coffee just at the next table."

Another resident, Mr Gene Lim, attributed the loss partly to new residents who do not have a sense of connection with Mr Chiam.

"For many of us here, we are brought up with the understanding of having alternative voices and democracy. This is really so unbelievable," Mr Lim added.

Speaking to reporters later, Mrs Chiam said of her maiden election experience: "I fought the fight alone. I worked very hard and I like to thank my supporters very much for their bravery." Ng Jing Yng


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