The People's Action Party's (PAP) decision to announce its slate of candidates early is a significant departure from previous practice but the strategy is aimed at being "upfront" with residents about the choice they have, organising secretary Ng Eng Hen said yesterday.
It also stems from feedback from past general elections where residents were faced with a flurry of announcements about candidates and do not know where they will be contesting until Nomination Day.
"We didn't think this was a sensible way," he told reporters after visiting residents in areas of Moulmein-Kallang GRC that have been newly acquired by his Bishan-Toa Payoh GRC following boundary changes announced last month.
"We understand why people do it, because politics is politics: You put whoever your candidates are, I decide how to respond. But we decided, let's focus on the residents. Let's tell them who's going to be where they're living so that people can size it up."
The party will announce its full slate of candidates standing in the 16 GRC and 13 single-seat wards over the next two weeks so residents can find out about their backgrounds and size them up.
"We're trying to move towards a politics where the real work begins the day after the election results are announced and the glamour is no longer there... To achieve that, what we want to do is to give our residents as much information as possible so that they can make up their minds, given that information," he said.
But the PAP's promise is that its candidates are people of calibre, able to perform at the constituency level managing town councils and taking care of residents' needs; and at the national level, where the party has to plan for succession and have people able to run the government and Singapore.
"Whoever we put up, the bottom line is that we've assessed them. They are able to run a town, they're able to take care of a town, they'll make sure the finances of the town council will be well run..." he said in an indirect reference to the Workers' Party-run Aljunied-Hougang-Punggol East Town Council, which has been in the spotlight over accounting and governance lapses uncovered by the Auditor- General's Office.
"The bottom line is whoever we put up, new candidates or old, that's again non-negotiable: they can run a town council well and comply with the law. And not only the letter of the law but the spirit of the law - accountability, integrity, honesty, transparency."
Dr Ng said the PAP began looking for new candidates very soon after the 2011 General Election. "For each session we roped in office- holders and MPs, and I would say we would have gone through probably 300 to 400 people each time. Copious amounts of tea were drunk," he said with a laugh.
Moving to name the slate of candidates early so residents can make intelligent choices after assessing them is an approach that is good for Singapore, he said, adding that he was glad some other parties have said they will try to do the same.
Indeed, Dr Ng may have given away the incoming slate in the five-member Bishan-Toa Payoh GRC when he met reporters accompanied by three new faces: Second Permanent Secretary in the Ministry of Trade and Industry Chee Hong Tat, who finishes his civil service stint today, OUE Hospitality Trust chief executive Chong Kee Hiong; and Maybank Singapore's head of forex research Saktiandi Supaat.
Also present were Dr Ng's fellow GRC MPs Josephine Teo, Hri Kumar Nair and Zainudin Nordin. Mr Nair and Mr Zainudin are expected to step down, along with the GRC's fifth MP - former minister Wong Kan Seng. The pair declined to confirm this when asked. Mr Chee said it was up to "the Prime Minister to decide where I stand, but as a resident of Bishan-Toa Payoh GRC, this is my home, and I'd be very happy if I'm able to serve the residents".
The team is likely to face a combined team from the Singapore People's Party and Democratic Progressive Party.