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GE2020: ‘Unfair’ that East Coast GRC voters face dilemma of electing PM-in-waiting or Opposition, says WP

SINGAPORE — The surprise move by the ruling party’s heavyweight Heng Swee Keat to contest East Coast Group Representation Constituency (GRC) has thrown up an “unfair” dilemma for voters there, said the rival Workers’ Party (WP) team.

Ms Nicole Seah, a Workers’ Party candidate for East Coast GRC, campaigning at Bedok Interchange Hawker Centre on July 3, 2020.

Ms Nicole Seah, a Workers’ Party candidate for East Coast GRC, campaigning at Bedok Interchange Hawker Centre on July 3, 2020.

Singapore

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  • WP says other capable politicians could take over if Mr Heng Swee Keat were not re-elected
  • WP team says it is stepping up activities to secure ‘fighting chance’
  • Asked if she’d accept NCMP seat, WP’s Nicole Seah said it would be group decision

 

SINGAPORE — The surprise move by the ruling party’s heavyweight Heng Swee Keat to contest East Coast Group Representation Constituency (GRC) has thrown up an “unfair” dilemma for voters there, said the rival Workers’ Party (WP) team.

On July 10, voters must choose between casting a vote for WP or for a prime minister-in-waiting.

Even if Mr Heng — widely tipped to succeed as prime minister if the People’s Action Party (PAP) prevails at the polls — fails in his bid for re-election, many capable politicians within the ruling party could step up as the next prime minister, said the WP team. It was responding to a question on whether there would be an impact on Singapore if Mr Heng were not returned to Parliament at General Election (GE) 2020.

Speaking to reporters at the Bedok Interchange Hawker Centre on Friday (July 3), Ms Nicole Seah, one of five WP candidates up against the PAP in East Coast, said it was “a bit unfair” that voters were caught in this “personal dilemma”.

“This decision… is going to be a very difficult one. But at the end of the day, we respect the decision of the voters and it will just be our duty to stand up here and put up a strong battle,” said Ms Seah, 33.

Mr Kenneth Foo, her teammate, asked why East Coast voters had to be caught in the dilemma “between us” — referring to WP — “and selecting a future PM”.

Mr Foo, 43, said that East Coast voters were concerned about Singapore’s future and the governance system that they want.

Fellow candidate Terence Tan, 49, reiterated that there are many capable people in the PAP who could carry the mantle.

“If you are to build an institution, is that institution supposed to just rely on one person?” he asked.

The two other members of WP’s East Coast team are Mr Dylan Ng, 44, and Mr Abdul Shariff Aboo Kassim, 54.

In a closely guarded move that unfurled only when candidate nominations were confirmed on Tuesday, Mr Heng, deputy prime minister and finance minister before Parliament was dissolved, has moved out of his Tampines stronghold of nine years to contest in East Coast.

He is expected to succeed Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong, who has said he would step down before he turns 70 in 2022.

Mr Heng’s inclusion in the PAP’s East Coast line-up took the WP team by surprise as well.

Ms Seah said: “What we experienced on Nomination Day was something that was relatively unexpected and it was definitely a huge surprise for us.”

She added: “But I would say, the situation is what it is. It doesn't diminish from the fact that the Workers’ Party team in East Coast will still continue to put up a very strong fight regardless, and we will not give up.”

To secure a fighting chance, the team has been stepping up its activities as it prepares for a strong fight, especially among swing voters, said Ms Seah.

The team was asked when WP determined its line-up for East Coast.

Mr Ng answered in Mandarin that for him, it had been decided some time earlier, without being more specific, and that the party does not reveal when it determines its line-ups.

He added: “We have had a period of time to determine this. We look at the quality of candidates from all aspects, and how active they have been, to contest East Coast.”

Asked about WP’s plan for the constituency, Mr Tan said that his team was aware of the municipal issues, including the presence of somewhat dated amenities and estates that are not as clean as residents might like. Further improvements to infrastructure could be made, he said.

When asked to specify the dated amenities and estates that needed sprucing up, Mr Tan said there was “a reasonably long list”, but did not elaborate.

He also said that the team would set up a town council as quickly as possible if elected.

STRONG PROSPECT OF ‘FREAK’ ELECTION RESULT

Ms Seah was asked whether she would accept a Non-Constituency Member of Parliament (NCMP) seat if she is offered one. The NCMP scheme allows up to 12 of the best-performing losing opposition candidates seats in the House.

She said that there was a high possibility that the team would not be able to explore this option if there were a wipeout of opposition voices from Parliament and it does not perform as well as “some of the other constituencies”.

“The decision, ultimately… is a group effort. The team will come together and we will decide on who will be the best people to come forward and serve the needs of East Coast residents,” said Ms Seah.

Of late, Mr Pritam Singh, WP’s secretary-general, has been stressing that there is a chance of a wipeout of elected opposition Members of Parliament at GE2020.

Mr Tan said that with Singapore still in the grip of the Covid-19 crisis, it was more vital for opposition voices in the House to critique and offer different views on proposed laws.

“It literally is a blank cheque if there is no opposition in the House,” he said.

“Then... we don't have to have a Parliament House. Not necessary.”

Related topics

Heng Swee Keat East Coast GRC Singapore General Election SGVotes2020 Nicole Seah election results

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