Singapore Election 2011

Latest news and updates about Singapore's 14th GE

Is Low Thia Kiang taking a huge gamble by contesting in Aljunied GRC?

Posted by singaporege2011 on April 28, 2011

The biggest shock on Nomination Day lies not in the record number of seats being contested, but in WP Chief Low Thia Kiang’s decision to leave his stronghold of Hougang to contest in Aljunied GRC which has taken many Singaporeans by surprise.

In an interview with Channel News Asia, Mr Low admitted that the risk is very high as the Workers’ Party may end up having no elected MPs in the parliament.

“The stake is high, the risk is very high. The correct thing to do of course is to stay put in Hougang, hopefully my party chairman will lead a team and win a GRC or some others, but win a single seat. But I believe that is only wishful thinking, based on the way the PAP gerrymander at every election with the re-drawing of boundaries, especially to use the GRC as a tool. So we are here to break through a GRC and let them learn a lesson,” he said.

Mr Low is going for the broke by presenting with voters two choices: either you vote us into parliament or you end up with no opposition MP in parliament.

Though the ground is ‘sweeter’ for the opposition now, it is still too early to discount the likelihood of the PAP making a clean sweep of all the 82 seats being contested though its percentage of votes may drop.

The Workers’ Party led by Sylvia Lim won only 44 percent of the votes in Aljunied GRC despite fielding its ‘A’ team there. WP had better results in previous elections, most notably in 1988 when its team led by Francis Seow won 49.7 percent of the votes in Eunos GRC.

Given Sylvia’s familiarity with the electorate and the addition of WP star candidate Chen Show Mao, Mr Low may not add too much ‘value’ to an already impressive team.

Furthermore, George Yeo isn’t exactly a pushover either and is one of the more affable and approachable PAP ministers around. Blessed with the advantages of incumbency and strong grassroots support, it will be an uphill task to unseat him.

Instead of putting all his eggs in one basket, Mr Low should have considered leading a team in neighboring Moulmein-Kallang GRC, a four-man team led by ministers Lui Tuck Yew and Yaacob Ibrahim.

With due respect to Mr Lui and Mr Yaacob, they lack the popular appeal of Mr George Yeo and may have difficulties fending off Mr Low if he contested there with a strong team.

Unfortunately, WP is sending a relatively inexperienced team to contest in Moulmein-Kallang GRC which is as good as handing victory over to the PAP on a platter.

Mr Low’s choice of replacement in Hougang is also puzzling. Yaw Shin Leong sparked a massive outcry in cyberspace three years ago by proclaiming rather proudly that he voted for the PAP in Bukit Panjang. Though he admitted his mistake and vowed to vote for the opposition this time, his childish antic back then is likely to cost him some votes this time.

WP is not short of talent to replace Mr Low in Hougang. Koh Choon Yong, for example, has been working the ground there longer than Yaw and impressed with his performance at the recent CNA Chinese forum.

It will be a close call for WP in Aljunied. While it will surely garner more voters this time, it remains to be seen if the sway is large enough to propel it to a victory. Yaw will probably win Hougang albeit with a lower margin as WP is pretty much established there and the PAP is sending a new face to contest.

Despite Mr Low’s personal popularity and track record in Hougang, it may be difficult to translate that into votes in a GRC which has an electorate more than 6 times the size of Hougang.

Singaporeans are known to be pragmatic voters. Will they risk their assets by forsaking estate maintenance and upgrading to vote for a ‘First World’ opposition? Only time will tell.

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One Response to “Is Low Thia Kiang taking a huge gamble by contesting in Aljunied GRC?”

  1. jay sim said

    totally agree with assessment. i too was surprised he did not field a stronger team in M-K. He would have a better chance there. I believe M-K is one of the weaker PAP wards. look at the lingering comments and views on Liu’s walkabout fiasco.

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