Election likely to be very different for 2 PAP candidates

Election likely to be very different for 2 PAP candidates
PHOTO: The New Paper

Both were introduced as candidates at the same event, but the upcoming election is likely to be very different for senior IT manager Lee Hong Chuang, 45, and colorectal surgeon Koh Poh Koon, 43.

Mr Lee will be contesting Hougang Single Member Consitutency (SMC) - a long-time Opposition stronghold, while Dr Koh has been fielded in Ang Mo Kio Group Representation Constituency (GRC), which is headed by Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong.

PM Lee himself said Mr Lee will have his work cut out for him: "In Hougang, I think Hong Chuang expects to have a tough fight. But I've known him for a long time, he has that fighting spirit, and he's going there with the full backing of the party."

Said Mr Lee: "I will try my best to win over the trust of the Hougang residents and hopefully they will get to know what sort of person I am."

Dr Koh had previously been fielded in the Punggol East by-election in 2013.

He lost to Workers' Party Lee Li Lian, earning 43.7 per cent of the vote.

Political observers The New Paper on Sunday spoke to said the move to put Dr Koh in what is considered a very "safe" ward is likely to draw the ire of people.

This comes on the heels of Friday's introduction of previous top civil servant Ong Ye Kung in Sembawang GRC. Mr Ong had been fielded in Aljunied GRC in 2011.

Said Singapore Management University law don Eugene Tan: "If voters feel that in (a GRC) line-up, one candidate or more is not pulling their weight, they may vote otherwise."

Agreeing, political watcher and consultant Mano Sabnani said the GRC system does not test individual members.

In many cases, it is the anchor minister who draws the most votes, and the more senior the minister, the bigger his GRC, he observed.


Associate Professor Tan said voters have to deal with the dilemma of whether to vote for a minister and hope his teammates prove their worth, or to lose a minister because of lacklustre teammates.

By placing Mr Ong and Dr Koh in "safe wards", this will continue the perception of them "riding in" with an anchor minister, he said.

"If you look at it clinically, a fair-minded person would say that the opposition does rely on that as well, but to a lesser degree. We can look at Aljunied. Pritam (Singh), Chen Show Mao and Faisal Manap - they were mostly new, no one knew them," he said.

The GRC system was introduced in 1988 to ensure minority representation in Parliament. By most accounts, it has worked on that score.

But both Assoc Prof Tan and Mr Sabnani suggested reducing the sizes of the GRCs.

Mr Sabnani went further to add that at least one-third of the seats in Parliament should be made SMCs.

This way, there can still be minority representation in Parliament and more MPs would have to work the ground and prove themselves to voters, which would put doubts to rest once and for all.

When asked yesterday why candidates were not running in places they once contested, PM Lee - who is also PAP's secretary-general - said candidates were deployed to areas where they could best contribute.

Dr Koh, who has been putting in the yards at Ang Mo Kio for eight months now, said the reasons behind why he is contesting in the election again matters more than where he is standing.

"(Regardless) of the outcome of the first foray, what's important is that the person's heart is still good, the desire is still there, and the ability and willingness to serve should be the first and most important consideration for residents and voters," he said.

New faces in PAP line-up

Name: Darryl David
Age: 44
Occupation: Deputy director of the School of Design at Temasek Polytechnic
Contesting ward: Ang Mo Kio-Hougang
Quote: "I still have much to learn, but I believe the experiences that I have gained so far will allow my grassroots team and I to continue to contribute to society and serve the community well, if we are given that opportunity."

Name: Koh Poh Koon
Age: 43
Occupation: Colorectal surgeon in private practice
Contesting ward: Yio Chu Kang
Quote: "Serving in different areas, meeting different people, gives me different perspectives on the issues faced by different people. I believe that what matters most is not where we are serving, but serving with our heart, to the best of our ability."

Name: Lee Hong Chuang
Age: 45
Occupation: Senior IT manager at IBM
Contesting area: Hougang SMC
Quote: "The most important thing (to do at Hougang) is to bond with the residents, be sincere, and tell them that I'm here to serve, to solve their problems to the best of my ability... I haven't been in Hougang for a long time, but I will try my best to earn their trust and let them get to know me slowly as a person."

This article was first published on August 16, 2015.
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