Ex-foreign minister George Yeo was 'mentally prepared' to lose Aljunied GRC in 2011

Mr George Yeo holding a press conference at the Ministry of Foreign Affairs on May 10, 2011, three days after his team lost the electoral battle in Aljunied GRC to the Workers' Party in the 2011 General Election. -- PHOTO: ST FILE
Mr George Yeo holding a press conference at the Ministry of Foreign Affairs on May 10, 2011, three days after his team lost the electoral battle in Aljunied GRC to the Workers' Party in the 2011 General Election. -- PHOTO: ST FILE

SINGAPORE - Former foreign minister George Yeo was mentally prepared to lose the contest for Aljunied GRC in the 2011 General Elections, he has disclosed in a new book released this week.

Even before campaigning for the polls had started, Mr Yeo's friend, a professional pollster, told him his five-man team would win just 43 to 47 per cent of the votes.

Mr Yeo, now 60 and chairman of logistics firm Kerry Logistics Network, had kept this prediction from his Aljunied teammates, "not wanting to demoralise" them.

And despite being mentally prepared for the loss, it was still painful when the prediction came true, wrote Mr Yeo in his foreword for a compendium of his speeches and writings, titled George Yeo On Bonsai, Banyan And The Tao.

Aljunied was the first GRC to fall to the opposition. Mr Yeo's People's Action Party (PAP) team, comprising former second minister for transport and finance Lim Hwee Hua, former Member of Parliament Cynthia Phua, former senior minister of state for foreign affairs Zainul Abidin Rasheed and first-time candidate Ong Ye Kung, won only 45.3 per cent of the votes.

Their rivals, the Workers' Party, had fielded an A-team led by party chief Low Thia Khiang in what Mr Yeo described as "a high-stakes bid to break the PAP's dominance of the Singapore Parliament".

Although Mr Yeo announced his retirement from politics the week after the elections, he was urged by people within and outside the PAP to enter the fray in the presidential elections the same year.

He thought himself "temperamentally unsuited for the responsibility" but was prepared to run nonetheless. His candidacy was initially supported by Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong, said Mr Yeo, but he decided to bow out from the race when current President Tony Tan Keng Yam expressed his willingness to run with the PAP's support.

"I would only have contested out of duty, not ambition," wrote Mr Yeo. "It should not be an exercise in self-justification."

The English version of the book, published by World Scientific, is available at major bookstores. The hard cover version costs $83.46, while the paperback costs $38.52 (both prices after GST). A Mandarin version is expected next month.