SINGAPORE - Workers' Party chief Low Thia Khiang has been re-elected as its secretary-general, but not without facing a fight.
This was the first time the 59-year-old opposition leader faced contest for the post since he took it up in 2001.
At the party's biennial Central Executive Committee (CEC) election on Sunday (May 29), Mr Low came head to head with fellow Aljunied GRC MP Chen Show Mao, 54.
Sources say Mr Low retained his seat with 61 votes, to Mr Chen's 45. But Mr Chen remains in the CEC as a member with the second highest vote count of the day.
Party chairman Sylvia Lim, 51, was re-elected unopposed.
After the election, Mr Chen said that the party is "looking forward to next steps" after its internal elections.
He did not want to say why he challenged Mr Low for the post of secretary-general. But when asked if he would continue to work with Mr Low, he said: " Absolutely! Both Mr Low and I said that now that the election is over, we have gone through the process. Everybody is going to work with the CEC under the leadership of Mr Low."
Mr Low, asked why Mr Chen had run against him, said: "Why he has to contest, you should ask him. But whether the general election had an impact, it's also very hard to say."
He added that he was pleased the election had refreshed the CEC with more young people, keeping the party's leadership succession plans on track
In all, 21 members vied for the other 12 CEC places at Sunday's election.
All of the party's Members of Parliament and Non-constituency MPs succeeded in their bid.
While Mr Chen lost the challenge against Mr Low, he made it into the CEC along with his fellow Aljunied GRC MPs Pritam Singh and Muhamad Faisal Abdul Manap, as well as Hougang MP Png Eng Huat, and NCMPs Daniel Goh, Dennis Tan and Leon Perera
Former Punggol East MP Lee Li Lian and former NCMP Gerald Giam also kept their spots.
The other members of the committee are three new faces, Mr Kenneth Foo and Mr Firuz Khan, who were both fielded in last September's general election, and Mr Tan Kong Soon, who is Mr Low's legislative assistant.
Those who are out of the party's top decision-making body include Mr Mohammed Rahizan Yaacob, who was party vice-chairman, Mr L. Somasundaram, who was deputy treasurer, Dr John Yam, and Mr Mohamed Fairoz Shariff, who was co-opted into the CEC in October last year.
Former NCMP Yee Jenn Jong did not stand for election.
This year's internal election took place at a rented conference room along Cecil Street, instead of the party's Syed Alwi headquarters, to accommodate the larger number of cadres.
The party had last month appointed 28 new cadres, bringing the total to about 130. They include WP grassroots activists as well as the party's candidates in Marine Parade GRC at the last general election Dylan Ng and Mr Firuz, as well as Nee Soon GRC candidates Cheryl Loh and Ron Tan.
New cadres are typically not inducted in such large numbers. In the previous round of cadre admissions two years ago, fewer than 10 were added.
Party insiders said that admitting them as cadres gives Mr Low the assurance that those earmarked for leadership positions can be elected into the CEC. He will also have a firmer hand in deciding the timetable for succession, they added.
Most of the new cadres are said to support WP secretary-general Low Thia Khiang's focus on leadership renewal.
Mr Low said on Sunday that more members would typically be inducted as cadres after a general election, as the election process would have allowed the party leadership to assess the potential of its members.
"Usually after the election there will be more because then you have enough time to assess, including those who are elected, including new canddiates who have performed well, who have shown themselves to be up to the mark," he said.
He added that those made cadres deserved to be recognised for their contributions.