SINGAPORE — The ruling People’s Action Party (PAP), which romped to victory in last month’s General Election, also outmuscled its political rivals in spending power during the campaign, while staying well within the spending caps imposed for polls here.
A check of the campaigning expenses reports of all parties — open for public inspection yesterday (Oct 28) — showed that for several closely-watched contests, the ruling party spent nearly double of what the Opposition parties spent.
In East Coast Group Representation Constituency (GRC), for instance, the PAP’s bill was S$238,815, compared to the Workers’ Party’s bill of S$126,143.
In Fengshan Single Member Constituency, PAP candidate Cheryl Chan spent S$44,815, one-and-a-half times that of her Workers’ Party opponent Dennis Tan.
In Aljunied GRC, where the Workers’ Party retained its five parliamentary seats — albeit by a slimmer margin of 50.95 per cent of the vote — it spent S$140,350, which was less than half of the S$305,946 that its PAP challengers chalked up.
The disparity in spending was the largest in Ang Mo Kio Group Representation Constituency (GRC), where the six-man team led by Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong beat the Reform Party with 78.64 per cent of the vote.
The PAP spent more than 12 times more than its rival while remaining well within the spending limit of S$4 per elector. The PAP’s Ang Mo Kio team spent S$317,545 — or S$1.69 per elector — while the Reform Party, whose Ang Mo Kio team included blogger Roy Ngerng and lawyer M Ravi, spent S$26,069 (or S$0.14 per elector).
The PAP spent S$366,990 in Pasir-Ris Punggol GRC, over 98 times more than the Singapore Democratic Alliance, which spent S$3,711.
The expenses reports that will be available for public inspection — for a fee — for six months at the Elections Department were contained in thick binders and filled with various forms and receipts, giving a glimpse of what candidates and their volunteers bought and ate during the nine-day campaign leading up to Polling Day on Sept 11.
As expected, advertising and promotional materials accounted for a large chunk of each party’s costs. What was different from previous elections, was perhaps higher amounts spent on filming and multimedia-related items. Other major items were rally-related, such as the rental of stage equipment, stage backdrop and sound systems, as well as barricades. Many receipts filed in the expenses reports were for food and drinks bought for campaign volunteers.
Mr Chua Eng Leong, one of the PAP’s Aljunied candidates, had numerous receipts from eateries in the Bedok Reservoir area, while his team-mate K Muralidharan Pillai bought vegetarian food, tissue and ingredients such as wolfberries, lotus seeds and chrysanthemum — presumably to concoct fortifying drinks.
The highest-spending in a GRC was Nee Soon, by the PAP. It spent S$371,887, or S$2.81 per elector. The PAP teams of Marsiling-Yew Tee and Marine Parade followed closely. But an Opposition party featured among the highest spenders in a GRC — the National Solidarity Party spent S$380,363 or S$2.63 per elector. Its team included Ms Kevryn Lim, who had specially designed flyers and fans.
As for the SMCs, the PAP’s Ms Tin Pei Ling in MacPherson chalked up the highest absolute amount at S$81,165. But on a per-elector basis, Ms Grace Fu of Yuhua spent the most, at S$2.97. Bukit Batok independent candidate Samir Salim Neji trailed far behind all other candidates, spending only S$2,171.65 or S$0.08 per elector.
Among the seven closely watched contests — Aljunied, East Coast, Holland-Bukit Timah, Hougang, Ang Mo Kio, Fengshan and Potong Pasir — PAP’s Potong Pasir Member of Parliament Sitoh Yih Pin was the highest spending per elector.
He spent S$45,731 or S$2.63 per elector, twice the amount incurred by his rival, Singapore People’s Party’s Lina Chiam, for the electoral battle in the smallest constituency.
Mr Sitoh won 66.39 per cent of the vote, improving on his performance in the 2011 General Election.
The PAP’s Holland-Bukit Timah four-member team was the second-highest spender among the seven constituencies, at S$2.61 per elector. Led by Foreign Affairs Minister
Vivian Balakrishnan, the PAP team spent about double the S$137,960 that its Singapore Democratic Party rivals did.
At the party level — which excludes some constituency-level expenses by candidates — the PAP’s total bill was S$2.18 million.
The Workers’ Party, which contested 28 of the 89 seats, spent S$438,782.
The SDP, which contested 11 seats, spent S$383,591.
The Reform Party, which also fielded 11 candidates, spent a total of S$59,648 — a far cry from its spending in 2011, when it spent S$125,964 for West Coast GRC alone.