In less than a year, Singapore will have a second by-election, as Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong has decided to call for a by-election in Punggol East, less than two months after it fell vacant.
At 4pm on Wednesday, President Tony Tan Keng Yam issued a writ of election setting Nomination Day for next Wednesday. Polling day would be on Jan 26.
The surprise announcement comes just a day after PAP dropped a hint as to who its candidate might be. Colorectal surgeon Koh Poh Koon had triggered a round of speculation when he appeared at the Meet-the-People session in Punggol East on Tuesday.
All eyes will also now be on the opposition, where at least five different players have tossed their hat into the ring, or at least said they were going to.
The Workers’ Party (WP) and Singapore Democratic Alliance (SDA) contested the seat in 2011, and both have indicated that they will return. Joining them are the Reform Party (RP), the Singapore Democratic Party (SDP) and former Singapore People’s Party candidate Benjamin Pwee.
Both the RP and the SDP have conducted visits there. RP chief Kenneth Jeyaretnam has indicated that he would be the one contesting while SDP is understood to be picking among party treasurer Vincent Wijeysingha, psychiatrist Ang Yong Guan and Dr Paul Tambyah, a senior consultant in infectious diseases.
The seat became vacant on Dec 12, when then Speaker of Parliament Michael Palmer resigned over an extra-marital affair.
At the 2011 General Election, the 33,281 voters in Punggol East were the only ones with three names on their ballot.
The PAP won the seat with 54.54 per cent of the votes. WP candidate Lee Li Lian won 41.01 per cent of the votes while Mr Desmond Lim of the SDA lost his deposit when he garnered just 4.45 per cent of the votes.
The polls will be held amid an ongoing debate about a contract between PAP town councils and Action Information Management (AIM). The topic has been the subject of a war of words between the Workers’ Party-run Aljunied-Hougang Town Council and the PAP-owned AIM.
PM Lee though sought to take the AIM saga off the burner on Tuesday when he announced that the Ministry of National Development would review the transaction between the town councils and AIM. Still, the issue is expected to get an airing in Parliament on Monday as WP has filed an adjournment motion.