Putting the GE 2020 in perspective

Let’s put things in perspective.

12,367 votes (0.5% of the PAP’s popular vote) in all the marginal constituencies where the PAP scored around 55% or less (West Coast GRC, East Coast GRC, Bukit Panjang, Bukit Batok, Marymount) – and we might have woken up to headlines that Singaporeans elected 23 MPs from parties other than the PAP.

Or nearly a quarter of Parliament.

That’s how close this election was – in a way that even 2011 and arguably even 1991 wasn’t. To understand this, pay very close attention to the marginal seats (>45%, rounded to 1 decimal place) and count what would happen if all marginal seats flipped.

1968: 0 elected, 0 marginal (highest % = 18.1%, Kampong Ubi)
1972: 0 elected, 0 marginal (highest % = 41.9%, Punggol)
1976: 0 elected, 0 marginal (highest % = 40.1%, Kampong Chai Chee)

1980: 0 elected, 1 marginal = 1 / 75 total (1.33%)
Elected: none
Marginal seats:
- #1: Telok Blangah = 47.0%

1984: 2 elected, 4 marginal = 6 / 79 total (7.59%)
Elected: Potong Pasir = 60.3%, Anson = 56.8%
Marginal seats:
- #1: Jalan Kayu = 48.8%
- #2: Kaki Bukit = 47.8%
- #3: Radin Mas = 46.0%
- #4: Telok Blangah = 45.0%

1988: 1 elected, 8 marginal = 9 / 81 total (11.11%)
Elected: Potong Pasir = 63.1%
Marginal seats:
- #1: Eunos GRC (x3) = 49.1%
- #2: Paya Lebar = 47.6%
- #3: Bukit Gombak = 46.5%
- #4: Bedok GRC (x3) = 45.1%

1991: 4 elected, 8 marginal = 12 / 81 total (14.81%)
Elected: Potong Pasir = 69.6%, Hougang = 52.8%, Bukit Gombak = 51.4%, Nee Soon Central = 50.3%
Marginal seats:
- #1: Bukit Batok = 48.2%
- #2: Braddell Heights = 47.7%
- #3: Eunos GRC (x4) = 47.6%
- #4: Nee Soon South = 47.2%
- #5: Changi = 47.0%

1997: 2 elected, 5 marginal = 7 / 83 total (8.43%)
Elected: Hougang = 58.0%, Potong Pasir = 55.2%
Marginal seats:
- #1: Cheng San GRC (x5) = 45.2%

2001: 2 elected, 0 marginal = 2 / 84 total (2.38%)
Elected: Hougang = 55.0%, Potong Pasir = 52.4%
Marginal seats: none (highest % = 34.7%, Choa Chu Kang)

2006: 2 elected, 0 marginal = 2 / 84 total (2.38%)
Elected: Hougang = 62.7%, Potong Pasir = 55.8%
Marginal seats: none (highest % = 43.9%, Aljunied GRC)

2011: 6 elected, 7 marginal = 13 / 87 total (14.94%)
Elected: Hougang = 64.8%, Aljunied GRC (x5) = 54.7%
Marginal seats:
- #1: Potong Pasir = 49.6%
- #2: Joo Chiat = 49.0%
- #3: East Coast GRC (x5) = 45.2%

2015: 6 elected, 1 marginal = 7 / 89 total (7.87%)
Elected: Hougang = 57.7%, Aljunied GRC (x5) = 51.0%
Marginal seats:
- #1: Punggol East = 48.2%

2020: 10 elected, 13 marginal = 23 / 93 total (24.73%)
Elected: Hougang = 61.2%, Aljunied GRC (x5) = 59.9%, Sengkang GRC (x4) = 52.1%
Marginal seats:
- #1: West Coast GRC (x5) = 48.3%
- #2: East Coast GRC (x5) = 46.6%
- #3: Bukit Panjang = 46.3%
- #4: Bukit Batok = 45.2%
- #5: Marymount = 45.0%

The numbers alone tell two important stories.

Firstly: 2020 is exceptional in a way that even 2011 wasn’t.

In 2011, non-PAP parties scored above 40% in a total of 39 seats – out of these 39 seats, 13 (or 33.33%) of them (including wins) scored above 45%.

In 2020, non-PAP parties scored above 40% in a total of 32 seats – out of these 32 seats, 23 (or 71.88%) of them (including wins) scored above 45%.

The number of >40% seats may have dipped (from 44.83% to 34.41%), but the number of >45% seats skyrocketed (from 14.94% to 24.73%). If 2011 was an election that saw much generalized disaffection towards the ruling party, 2020 saw more affection towards alternative parties.

Secondly: if you’re familiar with Singaporean geography, you will notice that many of the seats that have become opposition strongholds (thank you Hougang and Aljunied!), newly-won seats (thank you Sengkang!), or marginal seats have a long genealogy tracing back to historically strong opposition performance in the same areas. Former marginal seats have since become present-day WP constituencies or marginal seats in their own right once again.

In the greater scheme of things, therefore, 2020 was the closest that we have come to a viable opposition presence. If there is any year the opposition parties (or at the very least the stronger ones amongst them) have been at their all-time strongest – and not merely because the PAP is at its all-time lowest – it is now.

Yet, more so than ever, 2020 is the epitome of “so close, yet so far”. And here’s why.

2020 was the first general election since Singapore became independent that the opposition parties collectively have come the closest to scoring >45% in a full quarter of seats contested.

Well – almost.

The figure is at 24.73% – the highest since independence. Let’s also remember that in the 1963 elections – the last time Singapore’s legislature had double-digit numbers of opposition parliamentarians – Barisan Sosialis won 13 seats and the lone Ong Eng Guan won 1. Together, the 14 of them made up 27.45% of the then-51-seat Legislative Assembly.

And even that fell short of the 33.33% required to deny the PAP of their supermajority.

So on the one hand, we’re closer than ever to having a viable alternative. And this is a heartening development. On the other hand, to borrow a lyric: “look where we are, we’ve come so far, there’s still a long, long way to go”.

The good news is that if history is anything to go by, decades of groundwork in building up a robust foundation for viable political alternatives – not just in the form of parties – will at some point bear fruit. Even if in a different shape from before.

So what do we do? We carry on. We carry on lifting each other up and making space for more voices, especially those on the margins. We carry on, in our own ways, and find ways to put into practice alternatives. We organize. We bring people together. We practice solidarity. Because these efforts do in fact matter, and they will bear fruit.

Even if they repeatedly come so close, yet so far, to doing so.


Carissa Chow


* The author blogs on Facebook.




14 Responses to “Putting the GE 2020 in perspective”

  • Bulls Eye:

    If we are to make inroads for the next GE, there must be a united opposition. Better still just have two opposition parties. Will it happen? Easier said than done.

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  • TUMASIK Patriot:

    It took Europe a long time to come out of the Dark Ages are we coming out of A Dark Age passing off as Success Story of a Lie & his Illusion???…

    Is 2020 a Silver Lining??? Yes!!! with a Bright Dawn following and definitely we won’t go into a Rainbow with a POT-of-SHIT waiting for us with more Lies

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  • Opposition force:

    For Opposition to move forward..it should be group under two parties.
    One WP and the other combine under PSP .
    This will result in the growth of the Opposition numbers in Singapore Parliament in the next election.
    While WP is to be congratulate for the good performance (although they benefit more from the ground unhappiness this time) credit must be given to the PSP West Coast Team.A swing of nearly 27% is an achievement that WP did not come close…

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  • Sengkangite:

    Oppo sgs must unite.
    Remaining fragmented is a hindrance.
    I tell you SK wins because many young sgs living in SK are under-employed or jobless.
    Just to share,a friend’a two kids lost theie jobs to FTs and have been jobless for 3 years on.
    One is a SMU grad and the other from NUS?

    The govt thinks it is doing such a great job but reality is far from it.

    Mer Siam Mai Hum is HUM-bug!

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  • Sg is doomed with 4Gs:

    We are living in the medieval times ruled by fear, non transparency cronyism, nepotism and abuse of power.

    Once the naked king is gone for good, the shackles are free.

    People can reclaim back their land, freedom and rights.

    The time won’t be too far!

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    Mixed results. Mandate not strong.

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  • On Sinchiapor's military brass:

    “I am a coolie and the son of a coolie. I was born with the poor, and I am still poor. My sympathies have always been with the struggling masses…. The goal of the revolution is to achieve the people’s rights, but during the course of the revolution, we must stress military power – and the two are mutually contradictory.”

    - Dr. Sun Yat Sen, Father of modern China

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  • Next GE:

    Opposition force:
    For Opposition to move forward..it should be group under two parties.
    One WP and the other combine under PSP .

    It’s better that all other alternative parties either join WP or PSP for the next GE or they may lose their deposit

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  • why suffered in silence:

    With about 22,000 new citizens each year from 2016 -2018, every 5 years we will have 110,000. With the accumulation every GE, next GE we will have 220,000. This is a buffer for gahmen as these new citizens will vote for gahmen and with gerry meandering , it is difficult for opposition to deny gahmen a 2/3 majority. Couple with the fragmented opposition , forming a coalition is far fetched. Unless parties like WP, PSP, SDP could settle their diffrences and form a coalition and the small opposition opposition parties voluntarily dissolve, Pay and Pay would still be in power for a long time.

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  • pap clown lies everyday:

    Bulls Eye:
    If we are to make inroads for the next GE, there must be a united opposition. Better still just have two opposition parties. Will it happen? Easier said than done.

    Yes, agree.

    WP or PSP.

    the other ones to disband and regroup under either WP or PSP.

    look at RP. they have a few good ones but as long as the leader is half past six, it ain’t going to topple pap. color of shirts, all manner of yellow. untidy turn out. small things. but why waste the chance to topple pap at each GE? why not, for once, unite, and topple pap?

    TOPPLE pap? why?

    because only then can investigations be made into the S$b they have amassed without citizens’ permission.

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  • text-book cut-and-paste:

    //I tell you SK wins because many young sgs living in SK are under-employed or jobless.
    Just to share,a friend’a two kids lost theie jobs to FTs and have been jobless for 3 years on.//

    white idiots aiming for 6.9m or 10m ? some white idiot said FTs create jobs for sinkies leh ??? for the white monkey idiots, the more people, the better sinkie land is (more for the white idiots and gang) leh ???

    many more daft sinkies will wake up even more once their kiddos are in the employment market (or lack of good jobs paying reasonable good living wage to start a family and buying a housing unit on their own) ???

    the white idiotic team must have have gotten some lousy advice from their own half-baked text-book cut-and-paste experts and consultants to come out with this 6.9m or 10m open-leg policy ???

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  • Realistically:

    I have YET to come across ANY comment as regards the contribution or otherwise of the wayang party as the so-called opposition, for the benefit of SINKaPOOR and sinkies………despite its former Sec-Gen Low Thia Khiang being MP since 1991, for the previous AJunied GRC MPs since 2011.

    Any comment disregarding what I’ve said, is just superflous.

    From what I read, there is a SWING of around 8.5% AGAINST the PAPies. Given that the voters have only a binary choice, it is either vote for the PAPies or the so-called oppos; none of whom quite understands the ROOT CAUSE of the problems facing SINKaPOOR & the incompetence of the emperor without clothes; and the unsustainable economic policies.

    All I want to say is that what I have said prior to the GE and for a very long time, has actualised. Whether sinkies like to hear about “I told you so” is unimportant……we all have to collectively faced up to the negative effects of what I have said before, which NO so-called oppos has shown ANY indication of helping to improve.

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  • Shareholder:

    In perspective,Oppo garnering a near 10 pct in 2020 is gaining back what has been lost in 2015 owing to the LKY PLAY by LEE HL 。

    The oppo share is merely getting restored and that neans going back 10 years?

    Oppo has a lot to catch up in terms if seats.
    The playing ground is occupied by BIG BULLIES via GRC,POFMA ,PA,etc.

    I dont see how oppo can get many more seats unless GRC is abolished and oppo unite.

    GD Star Rating
  • DavidNeo&IreneVanessa:Bastards:

    PAP’s vote share Set to dip, dip, dip

    GD Star Rating
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