SINGAPORE - Speaker of Parliament Tan Chuan-Jin will anchor the People's Action Party (PAP) team in its battle against the Workers' Party (WP) in Marine Parade GRC.
This is the first year that Emeritus Senior Minister (ESM) Goh Chok Tong will not be around to defend the constituency, after he announced his retirement last Thursday.
On Tuesday (June 30), Mr Tan, 51, and his teammates - incumbents Seah Kian Peng, 58, and Edwin Tong, 50, as well as new faces Mohd Fahmi Aliman, 48, and Dr Tan See Leng, 55 - successfully submitted their nomination papers at Kong Hwa School nomination centre along Guillemard Road.
Mr Mohd Fahmi, a former army colonel, will be replacing Dr Fatimah Lateef, 54, who will be retiring. Dr Tan, who is former group chief executive and managing director of IHH Healthcare, will replace Mr Goh, 79.
The five-member WP team is helmed by second-time candidate Ron Tan Jun Yen, 35, who contested in Nee Soon GRC in the 2015 election.
The senior assistant manager at the National University Health System Research Office will take over the team leader role from former Non-Constituency MP Yee Jenn Jong, 55, who will still be part of the Marine Parade team.
The other members include three new faces: lawyer Muhammad Fadli Mohammed Fawzi, 40; IT professional Nathaniel Koh, 36, and small business owner Muhammad Azhar Abdul Latip, 34.
At a virtual press conference on Tuesday afternoon, PAP team leader Mr Tan said that the focus for the team is on residents and engaging them on the ground, as well as to tap the collective wisdom that residents have to offer.
"What we're really interested in is not just a democracy of words, but a democracy of deeds," Mr Tan said, in reply to a question about the team's response to the WP's "Make Your Vote Count" slogan and manifesto.
When asked if a promotion for one of the team members was likely given that the slate of candidates does not include a senior political office-holder, he said they should not assume that the election is won, and said that questions over having a senior political office-holder to anchor the constituency are secondary to residents' concerns.
Speaking about issues he has been working on for residents, PAP new face and ESM Goh's potential successor Dr Tan said that seamless covered walkways are a priority and something that would be worked on once the election is over, if elected.
Mr Tong highlighted that a lot of attention on elderly care issues and future-proofing facilities for an ageing population are areas of focus at both the local and national level.
At a media interview earlier in the day, WP's Mr Tan, who has served as legislative assistant to former WP chief Low Thia Khiang since 2017, said: "We do need to bring new people in to contribute. We cannot just be stagnant and have the same team for a long period of time, because the ideas will be exhausted."
On whether his party stood a greater chance of winning with the PAP team entering the contest without ESM Goh, Mr Tan said the elder statesman has a strong connection with residents. But he stressed that a GRC cannot be based on just one person alone.
"It is a team effort," he said. "We are sure that with our sincerity, residents can see that we too, are contributing back to them and making sure they are well looked after."
Mr Yee, an entrepreneur, is the only member on the current team to have contested in the GRC before.
However, he told The Straits Times that the arrangement is part of the party's renewal process.
"We should not be depending on one or two persons, because politics is not about a personality," explained Mr Yee, adding that his teammates come with years of experience including helping in community projects and town council work. "Some are younger than me, but they have been with the party for longer."
In his maiden electoral battle in Joo Chiat SMC in 2011, Mr Yee, known to supporters as the "son of Joo Chiat", narrowly lost to veteran PAP backbencher Charles Chong by just 388 votes.
The single-member constituency was absorbed into Marine Parade GRC in 2015, and Mr Yee was tasked with leading a team noted for the calibre of its candidates. But the WP lost with 35.9 per cent of the vote against the PAP team.
Despite not winning, Mr Yee said his party has remained active in Marine Parade and has initiated projects such as distributing food to needy families since the start of the circuit breaker.
Mr Yee was coy when asked if this would be his last contest. "I only want to do my best for this election," he said. "If there are better people and I need to step back, then I would be happy to do that."
This year, the Joo Seng area of Marine Parade GRC will be in Potong Pasir SMC.
Marine Parade GRC, has been known to be a stronghold of the PAP after it was formed in 1991. After the 1992 by-election, it was uncontested in 1997, 2001 and 2006.
But in 2011, it turned out to be the second-poorest performing GRC - after East Coast - for the PAP, polling 56.6 per cent of the votes against a National Solidarity Party that had star candidate Nicole Seah in its ranks.
PAP team in Marine Parade returned to victory after winning 64.1 per cent of the votes in 2015.
In the days leading up to Nomination Day, there was speculation that Ms Seah, now a WP candidate, would be fielded in Marine Parade GRC at the last minute.
In 2011, the 33-year-old associate director in a multinational marketing firm contested Marine Parade GRC under the banner of the NSP, and the fierce fight saw the PAP team winning by a tight margin of 56.7 per cent of the votes.
No surprise sprung up on Nomination Day, as Ms Seah was fielded in the team to contest East Coast GRC, where she has been spotted walking the ground with the WP.