Singapore

Tale of two candidates: One returns to 'safe' ward, one in 'tough fight'

One returns to 'safe' ward with PM Lee while new face in for 'tough fight' in Hougang

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.

WATCH: What do Darryl David's and Koh Poh Koon's families think about them standing for election?

 

 

DILEMMA

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.


SPOTLIGHT ON:

HOUGANG SMC

2015 GE

Voters: 24,064

PAP: Mr Lee Hong Chuang

2012 By-election

Voters: 23,368

PAP: (Mr Desmond Choo) 37.9%

WP: (Mr Png Eng Huat) 62.1%

2011 GE

Voters: 24,560

PAP: (Mr Desmond Choo) 35.2%

WP: (Mr Yaw Shin Leong) 64.8%


SPOTLIGHT ON:

ANG MO KIO GRC

2015 GE

Voters: 187,652

PAP: Mr Lee Hsien Loong, Mr Ang Hin Kee, Mr Gan Thiam Poh, Dr Intan Azura Mokhtar, Mr Koh Poh Koon, Mr Darryl David

2011 GE

Voters: 179,071

PAP: (Mr Ang Hin Kee, Mr Inderjit Singh, Dr Intan Azura Mokhtar, Mr Lee Hsien Loong, Mr Seng Han Thong, Mr Yeo Guat Kwang) 69.3%

RP: (Mr Arthero Lim, Mr Lim Zirui, Mr Mansor Rahman, Mr Osman Sulaiman, Mr Alex Tan, Ms Vigneswari Ramachandran) 30.7%


SPOTLIGHT ON:

SENGKANG WEST SMC

2015 GE

Voters: 30,097

PAP: Dr Lam Pin Min

2011 GE

Voters: 26,882

PAP: (Dr Lam Pin Min) 58.1%

WP: (Mr Koh Choong Yong) 41.9%

GE spotlight: 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."

PM Lee says...

"The most important thing is the sincerity to serve the people. In a team, of course we need someone who is able to communicate well. But the team on a whole must have different skill sets - not just to be fluent, but also be able to strategise and resonate with people."

- On whether there is a need for candidates to have good communication skills

"In the next election, we have to bring in more people to complement and reinforce (the fourth generation of political leaders). I have a good nucleus but I need to reinforce the team.

"That's one of the important things in this election - to be able to have a strong core so that Singapore has a best chance of bringing forward the stability, the prosperity, the confidence and to be able to celebrate whether SG60 or 70 or 80."

- On how the fourth generation of political leaders are shaping up

"He has fighting spirit and goes there with the full backing of the party. We will help him convince voters their current MP is not doing as much as he should."

- On new PAP candidate Lee Hong Chuang being fielded in opposition ward Hougang SMC

Singapore ElectionsPeople's Action PartyPAPUncategorisedKoh Poh KoonAng Mo Kiohougang