Governance of a City-State
[The Angle] GE2015: Fielding a Fresh Face in a Hot Seat

The People’s Action Party (PAP) finally unveiled its candidate for Fengshan single-member constituency (SMC), one of the possible “hot seats” of GE2015.

She is Ms Cheryl Chan, a long-time party grassroots worker based on accounts given.

It is quite unprecedented for the PAP to field a new candidate in a new constituency, rather than an MP who is in his or her second or third term and is tasked to fight in a SMC, which can sometimes have been carved out from a Group Representation Constituency (GRC).  Think of Grace Fu who contested in Yuhua SMC in 2011 after it was carved out of Jurong GRC.

It will be interesting to see if Ms Chan’s familiarity on the ground and long-term service will translate into strong enough voter support to fend off a Workers’ Party (WP) challenge. She will also have to fend off the idea that one more SMC conceded to the WP that has staked it out is only a small price to pay for a greater opposition voice in Parliament.

I think this move also speaks of the PAP testing the idea that long-term commitment on the ground is a viable formula for finding successful candidates. It took Sitoh Yih Pin many years to barely tip the balance in Potong Pasir.  Mr Eric Low was not able to do it against the Secretary-General of the WP in Hougang which was probably too much of an uneven match anyway.

I think others may see Fengshan SMC as a bait to WP to send one of their strongest fresh faces there and satiate Singaporean voters’ desire for more opposition members in Parliament – if voters around the country think that Fengshan is likely to fall then there is less need to seriously consider supporting the opposition elsewhere.

There are other fresh faces from the PAP this time around who have said that they have volunteered in different ways but Ms Chan has kept at it for a decade and for the party. Ms Chan would presumably have had the time to build up rapport and that sense of familiarity with constituents alongside the retiring MP, Mr Raymond Lim.  So if she has been effective, she will have built up a good deal of political capital to tap on.

If Ms Chan is able to hold sway there for the PAP, she will be the icon for a new recruitment track for the PAP and stave off the idea that it is now an easy morsel for the WP.  That would be quite a story.

Dr Gillian Koh is a Senior Research Fellow at IPS. View her profile here.

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