by Gabriel Choo
SINGAPORE — Since she was introduced as a Workers’ Party (WP) candidate for the 2020 General Election (GE) over a week ago, Nicole Seah has been walking the ground and attracting a trail of fans and media attention.
The 33-year-old associate director has her work cut out for her, as she takes on a People’s Action Party (PAP) team at East Coast Group Representation Constituency (GRC) led by Deputy Prime Minister (DPM) Heng Swee Keat, who has been named the PM-in-waiting.
Seah is no political newbie though and is campaigning for the second time at GE2020. Yahoo News Singapore takes a look back at her political career and personal life since she was thrust into the limelight in 2011.
General and presidential election controversies
In GE2011, Seah contested under the banner of the National Solidarity Party (NSP) in Marine Parade GRC. She joined NSP as she was “drawn to the ethos of the party”.
“How our leaders behave will also signal to the public what kinds of behaviour and debate are acceptable. We need to move towards debating in the spirit of the argument instead of resorting to character assassination,” said Seah at the time. At the age of 24, Seah was then the youngest female candidate to run in an election and was a constant target of media attention.
On Cooling-Off Day, Seah filed a complaint that Tin Pei Ling, a first-time PAP candidate contesting in Marine Parade GRC, had violated regulations banning all forms of electioneering a day before any general election. Seah claimed that Tin had posted a Facebook comment “in response to a video that showed Seah crying after being told about a MacPherson female resident who could not get a refund of her son’s $80 tuition fees”.
In a twist of events, a complaint was also lodged against Seah for allegedly publishing content on her Facebook page during Cooling-Off Day. Eventually, the Singapore Police Force concluded its investigations and no action was taken against either Tin or Seah.
Although Seah and her NSP team eventually lost the Marine Parade GRC to the governing PAP with 43.46 per cent of the votes, they were still commended for putting up a good fight as the PAP’s winning margin was significantly lower than in previous elections.
That same year, Seah also made a political splash when she endorsed presidential candidate Tan Jee Say for President. She spoke at Tan’s presidential rally and went on his campaigning walkabouts with him.
“We need a President who is intellectual, who is a brilliant thinker, and not only that, someone who has a heart for the people and who can represent Singapore on the greater world stage,” said Seah.
Tan ended up in third place in the four-man race, amassing slightly more than one quarter of the overall vote count.
Stalked, depressed and sick
Two years later, Seah confessed in a Facebook post that her endorsement of Tan was a “terrible, irreversible mistake”, adding that she has learnt many lessons along the way.
Seah also admitted that she suffered an emotional breakdown and was constantly being stalked, and had faced rape and death threats. She shared how she would find barely coherent handwritten letters on scraps of paper left at her flat.
The stalking, together with her entire GE experience, took a toll on her health. She felt that it was a time that “derailed” from her larger purpose. Seah let on that she was played out by several men who dated her because they were “obviously more interested” in her public profile than who she really was as a person.
Seah was also caught in an online crossfire when AsiaOne and Lianhe Wanbao inaccurately published headlines of her and her then-boyfriend. While the publications apologised, Seah stated that “irreversible damage” had been caused to her reputation.
Resignation from NSP
Between 2013 and 2014, Seah resigned from the NSP and moved to Bangkok for work.
“I started in politics as a fresh graduate wanting to make a difference, by bringing more political awareness and interest to young people... It’s reached a point where I feel that my job is done (for now) and I have to move on and grow in other areas,” wrote Seah in an email statement to the media, adding that it was a painful decision.
Seah later also announced that she would not be rejoining the NSP for GE2015. However, she added that she was still in touch with NSP’s assistant secretary-general Reno Fong and organising secretary Spencer Ng.
Seah married a Singaporean engineer in 2015 and gave birth to a baby girl three years later. She also became an associate director at a multinational marketing firm, and has been volunteering with the WP since 2015.
She made her official return to politics this year.
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