The year was 2001. It was the aftermath of the devastating terrorist attacks of 9/11 and Singapore was facing its worst economic crisis since independence. Then Prime Minister Goh Chok Tong stunned observers by calling for early elections which were initially slated to be held in 2002.
General elections were held in Singapore on 3 November 2001. The ruling People’s Action Party won 82 of the 84 elected seats in Parliament. Due to the large number (51) of uncontested seats, only 675,306 of the 2,036,923 eligible voters (33.2%) had an opportunity to vote. Thus, the PAP was returned to power on Nomination Day.
This election saw its shortest campaigning period of 17 days after the opening of the register of electors, as well as the absence of four-member GRCs from the electoral map.
The PAP won a landslide victory and its best result since 1980. The party achieved its third-highest score among the general elections it has contested, since 1959. For PM Goh, the PAP’s vote percentage of 75.3% signaled an overwhelming mandate to lead the nation out of the crisis that came at a time of great uncertainty over world security and the recession that came after the 9/11 attacks.
Impressive as the PAP’s mandate was, Tan Cheng Bock who was MP for Ayer Rajah SMC at the time outperformed every other electoral candidate by defeating his Democratic Progressive Party (DPP) opponent, Tan Lead Shake with a staggering 88% of the vote. Tan Lead Shake, who captured 12% of the vote lost his deposit.
Tan Cheng Bock’s winning margin in 2001 remains unsurpassed till this day – a testament to the widespread support and respect he commands among Singaporeans. In fact, Tan had consistently secured an electoral margin of victory higher than the PAP’s national average in every election throughout his political career. His popularity and proven track record in Parliament makes him a formidable candidate and the biggest threat to the PAP’s dominance since J. B. Jeyaratnam.