GE2020: Parties explain, analyse candidacy decisions as they begin campaigning

Singapore Deputy Prime Minister Heng Swee Keat (second from right) speaks with hawkers at East Coast GRC during a walkabout in July 2019. To his right is former minister Lim Swee Say, who is retiring from politics and stepping down as MP for East Coast. (PHOTO: Heng Swee Keat/Facebook)
Singapore Deputy Prime Minister Heng Swee Keat (second from right) speaks with hawkers at East Coast GRC during a walkabout in July 2019. To his right is former minister Lim Swee Say, who is retiring from politics and stepping down as MP for East Coast. (PHOTO: Heng Swee Keat/Facebook)

SINGAPORE — Following the end of the nomination process on Tuesday afternoon (30 June), various candidates offered explanations and analysis of their party strategies as they begin campaigning for the 10 July General Election.

All eyes were on Deputy Prime Minister Heng Swee Keat, who made the surprise move from Tampines group representation constituency (GRC) – where he had served as a Member of Parliament (MP) since his entry into politics in 2011 – to East Coast GRC, where the anchor minister Lim Swee Say is retiring from politics.

It was a move that very few had anticipated, and DPM Heng took to his Facebook page on Tuesday to explain his decision. He said that in these current uncertain times due to the COVID-19 pandemic, the ruling People’s Action Party (PAP) cannot afford a succession gap in East Coast GRC.

“We need a full team that can take care of the residents and position them to come out of this crisis stronger than before. I told (Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong), I will move to East Coast,” he wrote in his Facebook post.

“After serving for almost a decade, I am very attached to Tampines and the people there. But Tampines has a very good team. The MPs have been working well together, and with the residents. If I move, Tampines residents will still be well taken care of.”

Later on Tuesday, Heng said in a PAP online media conference that he was prepared to go anywhere where he can be of value.

“I want to be able to mobilise Singaporeans, wherever they may be, to work together,” he added. “We are in the midst of really serious global pandemic with serious repercussions for years to come. And therefore, it is important of us to... bring all Singaporeans together to combat this.”

Pritam: Sign that PAP takes WP challenge seriously

Heng will lead PAP’s East Coast GRC candidates against a Workers’ Party (WP) team consisting Nicole Seah, Kenneth Foo, Dylan Ng, Terence Tan and Abdul Shariff Aboo Kassim.

WP secretary-general Pritam Singh believes that DPM Heng’s decision to contest in East Coast is a sign that the PAP takes WP’s challenge in the constituency with utmost seriousness.

“It’s an important signal the PAP are sending, that they take our challenge in East Coast very seriously,” he said during a doorstop interview at Hougang single-member constituency (SMC) on Tuesday.

“I’d say we take their challenge equally seriously and that’s why we’ve put a strong slate of candidates in each constituency.”

WP chairman Sylvia Lim also added that the party feels “honoured” that PAP has seen fit to send DPM Heng to helm the party’s East Coast team.

“We are also quietly confident (of) the slate that we field there. In fact, the slates that we field in every constituency we are contesting in are strong and diverse slates who will be able to represent the residents of the area well,” she told reporters after submitting nomination papers at Deyi Secondary School.

SDP addresses surprise moves in candidacy

Singapore Democratic Party (SDP) secretary-general Chee Soon Juan also address his party’s decision to send chairman Paul Tambyah to contest in Bukit Panjang SMC. In the last GE, Tambyah had helmed the SDP team that contested in Holland-Bukit Timah GRC, and was expected to do likewise at this GE.

Instead, he will be facing PAP’s Liang Eng Hwa, who is also moved from his previous constituency in Holland-Bukit Timah GRC to contest in Bukit Panjang, after former incumbent Teo Ho Pin retired from politics.

Chee insisted that every SDP candidate must be able to pull his own weight. “We made a very conscious move to make sure that we streamlined our number and made sure that we emphasised on quality and not quantity,” he said during a party online media conference on Tuesday.

“We wouldn't be fielding these 11 if we weren’t confident that we can get elected.”

Besides Tambyah’s surprise move, SDP’s Benjamin Pwee’s candidacy in Marsiling-Yew Tee GRC was also unexpected, as he had been seen in walkabouts in Yuhua SMC. Similarly, James Gomez was fielded in Holland-Bukit Timah GRC when he had been spotted in Marsiling-Yew Tee GRC.

Another surprise was SDP’s fielding of Tan Jee Say as a Holland-Bukit Timah candidate.

Tan was a former presidential candidate, as well as the former secretary-general of SingFirst party, which had been dissolved a few days before this GE’s nomination day. He had said in a Facebook post on Monday that he had requested to rejoin SDP, whom he had represented in GE2011 also at Holland-Bukit Timah GRC.

When asked during the media conference whether his last-minute return to SDP would affect his candidacy, Tan said, “It wouldn't be a disadvantage. It's just a matter of going back. It's like going back to your roots, the values that you champion for Singaporeans.”

Lee Hsien Yang explains his decision not to contest

Progress Singapore Party (PSP) member Lee Hsien Yang, the younger brother of PM Lee, also took to social media to explain his decision not to contest in the GE. He had come under heavy speculation whether he would contest for PSP after making public his entry into the party last week.

“Political leadership in Singapore needs to be much more than about one family or one man. The empirical evidence shows that dynastic politics causes bad government,” he wrote in a post on his Facebook page on Tuesday.

“I have chosen not to stand for political office because I believe Singapore does not need another Lee... I am involved through speaking up, by supporting candidates and parties I believe in, by contributing my time, ideas and resources to causes I support, and by seeking an open and independent media. I do not seek power, prestige or financial rewards of political office.”

He also urged voters to “vote seriously” to “rescue the future of the country we love”.

“Politics is not just for politicians. It is for every citizen,” he wrote.

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