SINGAPORE – The 14 single-member constituencies (SMCs) in the coming general election will see a mix of fresh faces and experienced hands fighting for votes.
At Marymount SMC, which was carved out of the Bishan-Toa Payoh GRC, People’s Action Party (PAP) new face Gan Siow Huang was a surprise choice as earlier talk had been that incumbent Bishan-Toa Payoh MP Chong Kee Hiong might stand there.
But Ms Gan, 46, Singapore’s first female brigadier-general, submitted papers on Tuesday (June 30), Nomination Day, instead. She will face off against Progress Singapore Party’s (PSP) Dr Ang Yong Guan, a retired army colonel.
Dr Ang, a 65-year-old psychiatrist, had contested as a member of the Singapore Democratic Party in the 2011 election. Three years later, he became a founding member and chairman of the Singaporeans First party, and was a candidate in the 2015 election.
He made his first appearance on the PSP Facebook page through a video released in April.
In a speech after nominations closed, Ms Gan, who is deputy chief executive of the National Trades Union Congress’ (NTUC) Employment and Employability Institute, noted that Marymount may be a new SMC but many residents had lived there for a long time.
“We have built one of the best and most beautiful towns in Singapore. We have forged strong community bonds through the years. Vote for PAP, so that we can continue to serve you,” she said.
In his address, Dr Ang called on residents to vote for the PSP and to deny the PAP a two-third majority.
“Send 32 of us, PSP plus alternative parties, to get into Parliament. For country, for people, you deserve better,” he said.
When new electoral boundaries were announced earlier this year, Singapore saw an increase from 13 to 14 SMCs.
Four of them were new ones: Kebun Baru, Marymount, Punggol West and Yio Chu Kang.
At Yio Chu Kang SMC, which was part of Ang Mo Kio GRC, PAP’s Mr Yip Hon Weng is looking forward to a “good fight” against PSP’s Ms Kayla Low, a fellow 43-year-old newcomer.
Addressing the ward after nominations closed, Mr Yip, the former group chief of the Silver Generation Office at the Agency for Integrated Care, said: “I will listen to your cares, needs and concerns… I will work with you to build Yio Chu Kang into a place we can be proud, into a home we can happily raise our families.”
Ms Low, a chartered accountant, said she was committed to serving Singapore and Yio Chu Kang residents if elected, with the guidance of PSP founder and secretary-general Tan Cheng Bock.
All in, the PSP will be contesting five single seats, the SDP three, the Workers’ Party two and four other parties will be contesting one each.
The SDP slate includes chairman Paul Tambyah who, in a late tactical switch, was fielded in the Bukit Panjang single ward.
He will face the PAP’s Mr Liang Eng Hwa, who was from Holland-Bukit Timah GRC and replaces departing PAP MP Teo Ho Pin.
Professor Tambyah, 55, a professor of medicine at the National University of Singapore, had been widely expected to contest in the SDP’s team in Holland-Bukit Timah GRC again.
After nominations closed, Prof Tambyah revealed that he had considered the move for “at least a few weeks”, and was ultimately convinced by the positive response he received on the ground during his walkabouts.
At the 2015 General Election, Mr Liang, a 56-year-old managing director at DBS bank, was part of the PAP team that defeated Prof Tambyah’s SDP side with a vote share of 66.6 per cent.
SDP secretary-general Chee Soon Juan, 57, is also gunning for an SMC, taking on PAP’s incumbent Murali Pillai in Bukit Batok in what looks set to be a fiery rematch of the 2016 by-election.
The two had contested for the ward after the departure of PAP’s David Ong over allegations of an extramarital affair. Mr Pillai, a 52 year-old lawyer, won the seat with a share of 61.2 per cent.
Another SMC to watch is Punggol West, where Workers’ Party freshman Tan Chen Chen, 38, will face off against PAP’s Ms Sun Xueling, the incumbent at the ward hived off from Pasir Ris-Punggol GRC.
The 40-year-old Senior Parliamentary Secretary for Home Affairs and National Development will be looking to win her second term.
Earlier, Peoples Voice (PV) leader Lim Tean had indicated his party’s interest in taking on Punggol West, but it did not field a candidate there ultimately.
While three-cornered fights failed to materialise in Punggol West and Bukit Panjang, where perennial independent candidate Ooi Boon Ewe was spotted on Nomination Day, there will still be one multi-way SMC contest – at Pioneer.
PAP’s Mr Patrick Tay, 48, and PSP’s Mr Lim Cher Hong, 42, already had their names in the hat, while 65-year-old retired financial accountant Victor Ronnie Lai emerged as a possible independent candidate.
However, Mr Lai belatedly decided not to contest, and it was left to business consultant Cheang Peng Wah to become the sole independent candidate at this general election.
Mr Cheang, who declined to give his age, told reporters: “You see the fourth-generation ministers, I don’t think they are up to the mark yet. Why? Maybe because the opposition is not strong enough yet.
“They are not surrounded by wolves, lions or tigers. So with our help, we can help them get more steel within them to make Singapore better.”