SINGAPORE - Workers' Party (WP) chairman Sylvia Lim yesterday (Sept 6) urged voters to support the party's young candidates, as she raised the issue of party leadership renewal for the first time.
Midway through her speech at its rally for East Coast GRC and Fengshan SMC in Simei Road, she asked all its candidates below the age of 50 to stand up, and said they represented the party's next leadership.
"This is the future of the WP. Please give them your vote!" she said to applause.
Of its 28 candidates for the Sept 11 General Election, 21 are under 50.
The WP's call mirrors a message from the People's Action Party (PAP), which has always stressed renewal at the polls and told voters its candidates this year will form Singapore's next-generation leadership.
Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong said recently that his successor is likely to be drawn from among the MPs elected on Friday and stressed that political succession is an urgent matter.
Last night, Ms Lim spoke against the PAP's longstanding political dominance, saying it has taken its mandate for granted. "The PAP has been in power for so long, they take it as their right. When new potential office holders are not elected, they scold us. They have forgotten who is boss," she said.
She told voters to vote in WP candidates so they can "learn the ropes, run town councils, speak in Parliament and deal with the PAP".
"What will happen if future leaders of the PAP turn out to be corrupt or self-serving? The only way for Singaporeans to protect ourselves is to buy an insurance policy - build up another party who can take over if the PAP fails," she said.
This needed to be done while things were stable because it would be "too late to do anything if things go wrong in future".
She hit back at Emeritus Senior Minister Goh Chok Tong, who had said it was a "seductive line" to say people should vote for the opposition to serve as a check and balance on the PAP. He said the PAP could check itself, given the integrity of its leaders.
Ms Lim said: "Actually, his is the most seductive lie. Can the current leaders of the PAP assure Singaporeans that future PAP leaders will always be good for Singapore? Nobody can give any assurance of what future leaders can be like... When the people change, the party can change."
She urged voters to vote in a more diverse Parliament.
WP chief Low Thia Khiang told the crowd that Singapore was headed for decline if voters did not "allow a diverse and balanced policy-making mechanism to grow and flourish".
He also spoke out on immigration and raising productivity.
"The PAP's method of policy-making and governance has worked for Singapore's rapid development but it will undermine future sustainability of Singapore," said Mr Low.
• Additional reporting by Janice Tai