It’s not even nomination day yet and already, we had a few sagas happened.
One that resulted in the withdrawal of a candidate even before he can be nominated on 30 Jun
And another who had not one, but two sagas, one about his surname.
Which made us curious, is GE2020 that exciting or has it always been this way?
To answer that question, we dug through what happened in the last election, GE2015.
In 2015, MP Inderjit Singh of Ang Mo Kio GRC took to Facebook to announce his retirement.
He said that he will be stepping down and thanked his residents for their support throughout the years. He even urged his residents to continue supporting PAP.
Not bad, right?
Except, his Facebook announcement rubbed Defence Minister Ng Eng Hen the wrong way.
Two days after he announced his retirement via Facebook, Ng used the media to subtly dug at his retirement announcement:
We want to handle the retirement of our MPs more smoothly and I would prefer a more deliberate and a dignified manner. You can post your retirement on Facebook (laughs), but I think as an MP who has served 15, 20, even 30 years – that’s not the best way to do it [Emphasis ours].
PM Lee Hsien Loong did not comment on the infighting in his party at that time.
In response, Mr Inderjit Singh only said that the “new format” (meaning it wasn’t in place when he announced his retirement back then) wasn’t a bad idea.
He added that his ideal successor would food-supply company Foodtraco Supplies executive director Henry Kwek, who went on to be an MP of Nee Soon GRC since 2015.
If you find the name familiar, it’s because she’s been making waves in GE2020 with Workers’ Party.
Back in 2011, she was with the National Solidarity Party and made waves at the age of 24 when Goh Chok Tong attributed PAP’s massive reduction in votes within his GRC to her.
During GE2015, NSP had wanted to field her but she refused, saying that she will not rejoin PSP, nor will she take part in GE2015.
NSP acting secretary-general Hazel Poa reacted to Seah’s announcement, saying that she’s a bright young lady and hopes that she will rejoin Singapore politics after taking a break, even if it’s not with NSP.
Hazel Poa herself would quit the party 16 days later, citing her disagreement with NSP’s decision to contest in MacPherson SMC and withdrawing from the election altogether.
In GE2020, Hazel Poa is now standing as a candidate for the Progress Singapore Party (PSP) led by Dr Tan Cheng Bock.
You’d have thought that, given how PAP is the common enemy, opposition parties would band together like the school of rock.
They’re not, which explains why the Reform Party (RP) can publicly denounce the Progress Singapore Party (PSP) for not honouring a “gentlemen’s agreement” recently.
Here’s how the GE works in Singapore:
PAP contests every seat, opposition parties field candidates in selected seats. And most want to avoid a three-way fight because they don’t want to dilute votes.
Here’s a simple example:
In 2015, opposition parties got together to discuss which party will contest in which areas.
The first meeting lasted for over three hours but the second meeting ended just one hour after it started.
Workers’ Party did not attend as they felt that nothing more could be discussed while Reform Party’s Kenneth Jeyeratham reportedly walked out after 15 minutes.
Parties were reportedly saying that while they do not want 3-way fights, it doesn’t mean they won’t commit to one if other people bring it to them.
Independent candidate, Tan Lam Siong, was also criticised for wanting to contest in the Potong Pasir SMC back in 2015 but he said that elections shouldn’t be about opposition parties chope-ing wards like they’re chope-ing tables at the hawker centres.
Back in Dec 2014, Fernvale BTO applicants were outraged when they realised that a lot next to their estate, which was supposed to be “booked” for a religious site, was tendered out to a commercial company to build a temple-cum-columbarium.
Sengkang West MP Lam Pin Min had attempted to assure residents that the columbarium will take up not more than one-fifth of the site as per URA regulations but was shot down by residents.
A number of them wanted a refund from HDB, saying that there was no mention of this in their BTO sales brochures.
A resident even asked how a commercial company with no links to religious groups can obtain the right to build a temple/columbarium.
On 29 Jan, Khaw Boon Wan, the Minister of National Development at that time, said the commercial columbarium project is cancelled.
Dr Lam had said, after, that the Fernvale Columbarium Incident could have been brought up by opposition parties during GE2015 if it wasn’t resolved.
Turns out, GE2020 isn’t the first time a candidate had to withdraw from the election due to online pressure.
Remember the NSP decision to contest in Macpherson SMC, which drove acting-secretary general, Hazel Poa, from the party? (Refer #2)
Well, Steve Chia, the man who pushed for NSP to contest in MacPherson SMC against PAP and WP, suddenly withdrew from the contest.
He cited online trolls as the reason for his sudden reversal (again) after he got flak online for going back on a deal with WP.
He is now the party chairman of the Singapore People’s Party (SPP) after taking over from Mr Chiam See Tong in Nov 2019.
In 2015, Workers’ Party Daniel Goh was accused of having an affair with a student whom he guided for her thesis paper in a letter to several media outlets.
He lodged a police report and steadfastly refute all allegations, saying that the timing was ‘sensational’.
Thankfully, his wife, whom he had been married to for fifteen years at that time, reportedly wanted him to sleep early after getting the news:
“Forget it. Either you’re so threatening they need to stoop so low or they are so boh liao. I think your (all of you) time is better spent resting. Nothing to it. You know it’s bound to happen, gutter politics. No need to convince me. Make the meeting with Low chop chop. Tell him your wife says you need to sleep.”
In GE2020, Daniel Goh, who was a Non-Constituency Member of Parliament in the last term, isn’t running for the elections.
He has also stepped down from his party posts within the Workers’ Party as well due to his failing health, which is he taking medication for.
It wasn’t just a single WP candidate who had his character smeared (or assassinated, as some would say it).
The entire Workers’ Party was facing a smear campaign by the PAP, according to party leader Low Thia Khiang over the Aljunied-Hougang-Punggol East Town Council Saga (AHPETC).
If you have no idea what I’m talking about, here are a few articles you might want to check out:
Low alleged that the PAP has used the saga (which three WP councillors were found liable for damages in 2020) to insinuate that surpluses from other town councils were used to cover losses incurred by the Hougang town council.
He pointed out several PAP members, including Senior Minister of State for National Development Lee Yi Shyan, Deputy Prime Minister Teo Chee Hean and Law Minister) K. Shanmugam.
The latter had reportedly asked voters if they want to vote to cover their (WP) losses in the town council.
Mr Low said that their allegations are untrue and Hougang had no financial difficulties before it joined with Aljunied back in 2011.
In GE2015, WP managed to barely obtain victory against PAP in Aljunied with 50.95% of the votes.
Mr Low, then, had said that instead of destroying opponents, political parties should have “constructive debates and constructive politics”.
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