SINGAPORE - Peeks of a campaign poster of a grey-haired candidate may have teased some, but the People's Action Party (PAP) stuck to script on Nomination Day without any last-minute changes to its line-up contesting the Aljunied group representation constituency (GRC) in the Sept 11 General Election.
Nomination papers for the five-seat ward were posted at around 11.40am, with the PAP slate of Yeo Guat Kwang, 54, K. Muralidharan Pillai, 47, Victor Lye, 52, Chua Eng Leong, 44, and Shamsul Kamar, 43, on the list. There had been much speculation on whether former Cabinet Minister and PAP chairman Lim Boon Heng might be a surprise last-minute addition to the PAP team.
The PAP will attempt to wrest Aljunied back from the incumbent Workers' Party (WP) team of WP chief Low Thia Khiang, 58, chairman Sylvia Lim, 50, lawyer Pritam Singh, 39, and full-time MPs Chen Show Mao, 54 and Muhamad Faisal Abdul Manap, 40.
Meanwhile, PAP candidates contesting in single-seat wards were the first from the ruling party to have their nomination papers filed and cleared on Tuesday (Sept 1) morning.
Potong Pasir incumbent Sitoh Yih Pin had his papers put up at Kong Hwa School about 20 minutes after nomination proceedings began at 11am, while Fengshan SMC candidate Cheryl Chan had her papers cleared at around 11.30am. MacPherson SMC's Tin Pei Ling also had her papers put up at around the same time.
Mr Sitoh will face Mrs Lina Chiam of the Singapore People's Party, while new face Ms Chan will come up against Dennis Tan of the WP.
The MacPherson ward will see a three-cornered fight between Ms Tin, Mr Bernard Chan of the WP and former MP Cheo Chai Chen of the National Solidarity Party.
The PAP candidates' papers from wards such as Jalan Besar GRC, Punggol-East SMC, East Coast GRC, Bukit Batok SMC, Yuhua SMC, Sembawang GRC, Nee Soon GRC, West Coast GRC, Hougang SMC, Hong Kah North SMC, Jurong GRC, Tanjong Pagar GRC and Radin Mas SMC were all put up on their boards at their respective nomination centres.
Keenly-watched constituencies include East Coast GRC, where the PAP will field Lim Swee Say, Mr Lee Yi Shyan, Mr Maliki Osman and Ms Jessica Tan. The Marine Parade GRC will see the PAP field Mr Tan Chuan-Jin, Emeritus Senior Minister Goh Chok Tong, Mr Seah Kian Peng, Dr Fatimah Lateef and Mr Edwin Tong.
The PAP, while optimistic that the mood on the ground has improved, has emphasised that it will not take any vote for granted.
Said Education Minister Heng Swee Keat, who is anchoring the Tampines GRC: "Every election is serious and we have been preparing for a long time now. Whatever team we face, we put the interests of residents at the centre of every thing we do."
Candidates and supporters of the PAP began gathering at their respective meeting points bright and early on Tuesday. Many arrived as early as before 8am, armed with breakfast, three hours before candidates are due to file their nomination papers at the nine nomination centres.
At the Punggol-East PAP branch office, Mr Charles Chong gathered with more than 20 supporters over a breakfast of buns, porridge, coffee and tea, with supporters optimistic that the veteran politician has a "fighting chance" against incumbent Ms Lee Li Lian of the Workers' Party.
When asked how he felt ahead of the battle, Mr Chong said with a smile: "Let's put it this way - I've been through this process a few times. The voters will decide."
Over at the Marine Parade branch, Emeritus Senior Minister Goh Chok Tong was welcomed by some 80 supporters singing a Marine Parade song when he arrived at around 8.30am.
PAP new face Ng Chee Meng, who arrived at the Pasir Ris-Punggol branch office with his wife Michelle, said: "I'm excited, raring to go. This is the first step in the journey towards service. We feel confident."
The Sept 11 General Election is expected to be the first general election since independence in which all seats will be contested.
One GRC - Tanjong Pagar GRC, helmed by the late Mr Lee Kuan Yew - was uncontested at the last election in 2011. There were walkovers in seven GRCs in 2006, and in earlier general elections, not all seats were contested either.
Should all seats be contested, it would mean that an estimated 2.46 million eligible voters will go to the polls on Sept 11.