Post-GE2015: Business as usual for WP's He Ting Ru

Nicholas Yong
Assistant News Editor
He Ting Ru, 32, of the Workers' Party

Singapore's 2015 General Election is done and dusted, and the ruling People's Action Party has returned to power on the back of a resounding victory. In this series of post-election interviews, Yahoo Singapore checks up on some of the candidates who took part in the polls. Featured here: He Ting Ru of the Workers' Party, who was interviewed Monday, 5 October.

Among the opposition candidates who made their debut at the recent General Election, it was He Ting Ru, 32,  of the Workers' Party, who arguably rose to prominence the fastest. 

The Cambridge-educated corporate lawyer was quickly heralded as the new Nicole Seah, after the former National Solidarity Party candidate who made such a splash in 2011. After all, the similarities between He and Seah were striking - young, articulate, well-educated and easy on the eye.

And after a tentative beginning in the public eye, He went from strength to strength, giving fiery speeches at election rallies. At one rally, she said to loud applause, "I disagree that political stability means having one party rule. Is it stable to to be led by an exclusive group that tells us that they are perfectly able of checking themselves?”

Ultimately, He and the WP team that contested Marine Parade GRC garnered some 35.93 per cent of the vote, losing to the People's Action Party team led by Emeritus Senior Minister Goh Chok Tong. 

Almost a month on from the election, He says it is business as usual for her and her fellow candidates. The party has just run its SG100 conference, while its Youth Wing has  elected four new members to its executive committee, three of whom - Cheryl Denise Loh, Ron Tan and Redzwan Hafidz - were also GE2015 candidates.

He, who is Secretary of the Youth Wing, tells Yahoo Singapore, "With this fresh injection of new members, it’s actually given us the chance to have the benefit of the GE experience behind us, and to think about how we can move forward as a party, in particular the Youth Wing’s role."

The Workers' Party obviously has its eye on the future, even though He would not be drawn on whether she might run for Parliament again, or even whether she will run for Secretary again once her term expires in a year's time. "With the new composition of the ExCo, we’ll basically map out the next one year (and) continue our ground work in the existing constituencies. It’s always up to the Party to decide (whether I will run for Parliament again). Four, five years from now is a long time," says He. 

Giving practiced, safe answers seems to be the norm for most of the new Workers' Party candidates, who have evidently been trained to give as little away as possible. Perhaps it also has to do with the fact that the WP is still doing an internal assessment on the election results - the PAP garnered almost 70 per cent of the popular vote, while the WP lost Punggol East SMC and retained Aljunied GRC by a margin of less than two per cent. 

When asked how she found the public scrutiny during the campaign, He, who has more than 11,000 followers on Facebook, says, "I don’t really have anything to hide. I stood for election because I believe in a certain idea and future of Singapore. It is a public role, you will be in the public eye, that’s just the way it is. It’s just something that we had to get used to, and adapt to."

Coiporate lawyer He Ting Ru, 32, will be running in the General Election.

He does have one vivid memory of Polling Day: A group hug with her fellow candidates at one of the counting centres on the night. She recalls, "At that moment, I really felt that we were part of a team. That, to me, was something that was quite striking for the night itself, that we were in this together."  

She also takes heart from the fact that the 70 people who turned up at the SG100 conference all seemed eager to be "active participants" in the discussion on the country's future. "I still believe that in any society, any political system, there’s a lot of value in involving as many people in the process as possible, being more inclusive, taking views and ideas from a wide and broad spectrum of people," says He. 

She adds, "The fact that they turned up for the conference means we have one thing in common: we’re concerned about the future of our country. So I think that in itself is very positive. It’s an idea that we should keep working towards, and that we should really leverage."

Check out the rest of our post-GE2015 interviews with Singapore Democratic Party chief Chee Soon Juan, and Singapore People's Party's Jeannette Chong-Aruldoss