East Coast GRC

WP leadership renewal may hit snag with East Coast loss

They were the dream team put together by the Workers' Party (WP) leadership for a purpose: to entrench the opposition party in Parliament. But it was not to be for these next-generation leaders in East Coast GRC.

In the end, former Non-Constituency MP (NCMP) Gerald Giam, 37, National University of Singapore sociology professor Daniel Goh, 42, consulting firm chief executive Leon Perera, 44, and former public servant Mohamed Fairoz Shariff, 36, fell short of fulfilling their promise, polling 39.27 per cent of votes and losing to the People's Action Party team there.

The result was worse than the party's showing of 45.17 per cent in the 2011 General Election.

Team leader Mr Giam declined to comment on the slide.

But in a speech at Hougang Stadium last night, he said: "We've tried our best and we will continue to fight on, to fight for Singaporeans, to fight for the rights of Singaporeans, to fight for a better future for Singapore."

With the results, the team has secured one NCMP seat in Parliament, but team members said they would leave it up to the party to decide who would take it.

Polling day had started on an optimistic note for the team, with pundits predicting a win.

As Mr Giam delivered food to supporters at counting stations in East Coast GRC at night, he was in a cautiously upbeat mood.

Team member Mohamed Fairoz looked similarly relaxed when he arrived at the counting centre at Fengshan Primary School.

Right from the start, the party's main focus this general election had been on East Coast GRC and on getting its team there into Parliament, party sources said.

All four faces took centre stage in presenting the party's election manifesto, for example, instead of party chief Low Thia Khiang and his deputy Sylvia Lim.

During walkabouts, Mr Low often introduced them personally to residents. At the party's final election rally on Wednesday night, he also singled out the quartet for special mention, saying: "I believe they have what it takes to look deeply at policies and debate them in Parliament. If they are elected, they will strengthen WP's ability to debate on policies."

The team was aware of the high hopes pinned on them.

While they declined to comment last night, "second-in-charge" Dr Goh had said during an interview with The Straits Times last week: "We need 20 (WP MPs in Parliament), so I guess we are part of the 20 in the equation."

The four have also refused to speculate on whether they have been earmarked as future party leaders, but acknowledged that the election results would affect the party's leadership renewal process.

Mr Giam had said during the same interview last week: "If, let's say, voters decide that Aljunied was enough and seven MPs are enough, then that would be what the state of politics will be in the next five years.

"We are hoping they would want to have more credible opposition members in Parliament and that is where we can advance the party and advance the renewal of the party."

Asked if they felt pressure to do well, Mr Perera had replied: "The pressure we feel comes from within ourselves, and comes from (the) passion to make Singapore better and stronger.

"That's fundamentally what has motivated all of us to step forward into what we do here."

Dr Goh had added: "If we start thinking about winning, losing, hopes, burden, cross, salvation and stuff like that, it will just cripple us, it will just cripple anyone."

Last night at Hougang Stadium, Dr Goh promised volunteers and supporters he would fight on and asked them to "keep dreaming".

For now, the party's renewal process may have hit a snag.

While Mr Giam and Dr Goh are members of the party's central executive committee, it is not known how the election results will affect them during the party election due next year. When asked last week about the expectations on him and his team, Mr Giam had said: "Certainly, whoever wins a seat in the election would have a central role to play in policymaking and decision-making in the party.

"But the way I see it, the election is a choice that the voters make, it's not something that can be forced...

"I'm not indispensable to the party, I'm sure the party can progress with or without me as MP."

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on September 12, 2015, with the headline 'WP leadership renewal may hit snag with East Coast loss'. Print Edition | Subscribe