Governance of a City-State
[The Angle] What of the new PAP faces in Bishan-Toa Payoh?

The three new PAP faces in the Bishan-Toa Payoh GRC have similar backgrounds, based on what they say of themselves.

First, they are exemplars of The Singapore Dream, two of them highlighting in particular, their humble beginnings but all of them at the top of their game; leaders in their respective sectors. It is to signal that they will be politicians who should be committed also to the same process of enabling social mobility among Singaporeans whom they will serve.  Given the concern about elitism, regardless of one’s background, it is important for the PAP to show itself as a movement comprising people who rise to the top but remember to care for others around them and serve them when the opportunity arises.

Second, they explain that they have been involved in community work for a few years and of course Mr Chee has had a career in public service; Mr Saktiandi, service in civil society; and Mr Chong, his work in one of NTUC’s social enterprises. These two points can help to address the issue of whether the candidates will have a feel for the ground and understand the daily lived realities of constituents. So, over their years of community service, the question will be, how has the ground taken to them?

Third, they are in their forties but especially the youth of Mr Chee and Mr Saktiandi means that in the PAP framework, the three have many years ahead of them to learn and be groomed for political leadership at the national level.

One other point is that two out of the three are from the private sector.  If this is a trend with the new candidates from the PAP, it addresses the question often posed to the PAP of whether they are able to attract business sector people not just for diversity’s sake but to understand that aspect of Singapore life: how policies affect entrepreneurship.  Of course, they are not from the small business sector which is where the local participation is the highest and the struggles are the greatest.

Since this is only the first batch of candidates, and these are profiles that have been framed beforehand, we will have to continue to watch this space for the general profile of the PAP’s new faces and what they say and do.  The candidates have highlighted what they want to do for their local community but let us see as the days go on, what they have to say also about public policy as this contributes to the PAP brand.

This is a electoral contest and we have to be mindful that they will face an SPP team (which incorporates members of the DPP) that has worked the ground in Bishan-Toa Payoh as well.

In general, opposition parties tend to highlight issues they have with national policy and how it affects Singaporeans’ daily lives and why, therefore an opposition movement is needed.

So, with an opposition team that is “returning” to contest in the GRC (the team led by Chiam See Tong and Benjamin Pwee garnered 43.1% of the votes), the PAP team also will have to contest for voters’ ballots there on many levels – the local, the national and the political.

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

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