'We are in election season', PAP organising secretary Ng Eng Hen declares, with party set to unveil candidates

Defence Minister Ng Eng Hen (second from left) who was on a walkabout visiting residents in Jalan Dusun being accompanied by outgoing Second Permanent Secretary for Trade and Industry Chee Hong Tat (left).
Defence Minister Ng Eng Hen (second from left) who was on a walkabout visiting residents in Jalan Dusun being accompanied by outgoing Second Permanent Secretary for Trade and Industry Chee Hong Tat (left).ST PHOTO: CHARISSA YONG
Back row left to right: potential PAP candidates Saktiandi Supaat, Chong Kee Hiong and Chee Hong Tat. Front row: Bishan-Toa Payoh GRC MPs Zainudin Nordin, Ng Eng Hen and Josephine Teo. Not pictured: PAP MP Hri Kumar Nair.
Back row left to right: potential PAP candidates Saktiandi Supaat, Chong Kee Hiong and Chee Hong Tat. Front row: Bishan-Toa Payoh GRC MPs Zainudin Nordin, Ng Eng Hen and Josephine Teo. Not pictured: PAP MP Hri Kumar Nair.ST PHOTO: CHARISSA YONG

SINGAPORE - Declaring that "we are in election season", People's Action Party organising secretary Ng Eng Hen said on Monday that the party will unveil its lineup of candidates for GRCs and single-seat wards over the next two weeks - with announcements possibly coming as early as Wednesday (Aug 12).

In what is the clearest sign from the ruling party that an early general election is on the cards, he said these announcements will detail the MPs who are retiring as well as the slate of candidates who will contest in each GRC and the single ward.

Coupled with developments on the Opposition front, where the National Solidarity Party (NSP) said on Monday that it is giving way to the Worker's Party (WP) in Marine Parade GRC and the MacPherson single-seat ward, the stage is set for straight fights between the PAP and Opposition parties.

That includes in Ang Mo Kio GRC, where the Singaporeans First party announced on Monday afternoon that it is withdrawing its interest there, thus leaving the Reform Party in a straight contest with the PAP team i n the GRC that is helmed by Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong.

Going by the announcements to date, it means that every one of the 89 seats is set to be contested at the next election. If they are, come Nomination Day, it will be the first time since independence that every eligible voter gets a chance to cast their ballot at a general election.

Dr Ng, speaking to reporters on Monday after meeting residents in areas that have been newly-acquired by his Bishan-Toa Payoh GRC following boundary changes, said the PAP's announcements on retiring MPs and its confirmed slate of new candidates and incumbents will be made in stages at the constituencies where they will contest.

This is a departure from the party's previous practice of a managed introduction at the PAP headquarters by a senior member of its executive committee.

Dr Ng has said previously that there will be very few surprises when the PAP unveils its election candidates after National Day. This is because potential candidates have already been on the ground, some for over two years, and will be familiar to residents.

This change in approach by the PAP was intentional as it wanted residents to be comfortable with candidates, and for potential candidates to also know residents so as to serve them well.

Indeed, Dr Ng may have effectively indicated the incoming slate in five-member Bishan-Toa Payoh when he met reporters accompanied by three new faces: Second Permanent Secretary in the Ministry of Trade and Industry Chee Hong Tat - whose last day with the civil service is tomorrow ; OUE Hospitality Trust chief executive Chong Kee Hiong; and Maybank Singapore's head of forex research Saktiandi Supaat.

Also present at the press conference were fellow GRC MPs Josephine Teo, Hri Kumar Nair and Zainudin Nordin.

Mr Hri Kumar and Mr Zainudin are expected to step down at the next election along with the fifth MP in the GRC - former minister Wong Kan Seng - but both declined to confirm they would do so when asked.

The PAP's Bishan-Toa Payoh team is likely to face a combined team made up of representatives from the Singapore People's Party and the Democratic Progressive Party, led by opposition politicians Lina Chiam and Benjamin Pwee respectively.

On Monday, Dr Ng, who is Defence Minister, visited residents in parts of Balestier in Jalan Dusun and Ah Hood Road that are under Moulmein-Kallang GRC but which will come under Bishan-Toa Payoh GRC at the next general election.

This follows boundary change announced by Electoral Boundaries Review Committee last month.

Accompanying Dr Ng was Mr Chee, who has recently been attending community events with Mr Hri Kumar.

charyong@sph.com.sg