Shake-ups in PAP slates expected

With Mr Kahar Hassan stepping down, a slot in the PAP's slate for Aljunied is open. Mr Charles Chong (left), the ruling party's longest-serving backbencher, had been expected to step down this general election but now appears to be heading for a show
Mr Charles Chong (above), the ruling party's longest-serving backbencher, had been expected to step down this general election but now appears to be heading for a showdown with Workers' Party MP Lee Li Lian in Punggol East SMC.PHOTOS: ST FILE, TNP FILE
With Mr Kahar Hassan stepping down, a slot in the PAP's slate for Aljunied is open. Mr Charles Chong (left), the ruling party's longest-serving backbencher, had been expected to step down this general election but now appears to be heading for a show
Mr Charles Chong, the ruling party's longest-serving backbencher, had been expected to step down this general election but now appears to be heading for a showdown with Workers' Party MP Lee Li Lian (above) in Punggol East SMC.PHOTOS: ST FILE, TNP FILE
With Mr Kahar Hassan stepping down, a slot in the PAP's slate for Aljunied is open. Mr Charles Chong (left), the ruling party's longest-serving backbencher, had been expected to step down this general election but now appears to be heading for a show
With Mr Kahar Hassan stepping down, a slot in the PAP's slate for Aljunied is open. ST PHOTO: KEVIN LIM

Veteran Charles Chong likely to contest opposition-held Punggol East SMC

In a shake-up of candidates it will field in opposition-held seats, the People's Action Party (PAP) is likely to send veteran MP Charles Chong to contest the Punggol East Single-Member Constituency.

Mr Chong, who entered politics in 1988, is the ruling party's longest-serving backbencher and probably its most seasoned hand in tough electoral contests.

The 62-year-old won Joo Chiat in 2011 by only 388 votes, and was previously part of the PAP team which won Eunos GRC in 1991 with less than 5 per cent of the vote.

He had been expected to step down this general election. Instead, he now appears to be heading for a showdown with the Workers' Party (WP) incumbent, Ms Lee Li Lian.

Ms Lee, 37, wrested the seat from the PAP in a 2013 by-election after former Speaker of Parliament Michael Palmer resigned over an affair with a grassroots staff member.

MATCHING STATURE

We lost two ministers and one senior minister of state. It's only right that politicians of the same stature come to replace them.

AN ALJUNIED PAP ACTIVIST, referring to the PAP loss in the 2011 election in Aljunied GRC that affected former Foreign Minister George Yeo, former Second Minister for Transport and Finance Lim Hwee Hua and former Senior Minister of State for Foreign Affairs Zainul Abidin Rasheed. Insiders say the party rank-and-file are calling for bigger names to be fielded in Workers' Party-held territory to show that the PAP is serious about winning the wards back.

When contacted, Mr Chong would only say: "We must give voters a credible choice."

Over in Aljunied GRC, which the WP won in the 2011 GE, one of the PAP's expected candidates announced on Facebook yesterday that "the party leaders have made the decision for me to step down".

Mr Kahar Hassan, 45, said he was leaving his branch chairman post in Kaki Bukit, one of Aljunied GRC's five divisions, with "a heavy heart".

The position of branch chairman is held by the PAP's candidate in each of its 87 wards.

His departure opens a slot in the PAP's Aljunied slate, which requires a Malay candidate under electoral rules. Like Mr Kahar, the other four potential candidates are newcomers to politics.

Yesterday, he told The Straits Times his replacement had been identified and the party would make the announcement later.

Insiders say a factor behind the shake-ups is the urging from the party rank-and-file for bigger names to be fielded in WP-held territory to show that the PAP is serious about winning the wards back.

"We lost two ministers and one senior minister of state," said one Aljunied activist, referring to former Foreign Minister George Yeo, former Second Minister for Transport and Finance Lim Hwee Hua and former Senior Minister of State for Foreign Affairs Zainul Abidin Rasheed, three of the five losing candidates in 2011. "It's only right that politicians of the same stature come to replace them."

Mr Zainul, still active in the GRC as the Eunos grassroots adviser, told The Straits Times yesterday he has "ruled out standing again".

Mr Chong's likely move will free up a spot in Joo Chiat, now absorbed into Marine Parade GRC. But sources said the new face who had been shadowing him, animal rights activist Louis Ng, 37, is unlikely to be fielded in Mr Chong's place in the Marine Parade slate.

Rather, MP Edwin Tong, from the soon-to-be defunct Moulmein- Kallang GRC, is likely to take over Joo Chiat.

With the PAP set to start introducing its new candidates officially after National Day, this weekend will see a flurry of community activities likely to shed light on which of its politicians will be moved where.

For example, the PAP's line-up in the new Marsiling-Yew Tee GRC could include Minister for Culture, Community and Youth Lawrence Wong, who is unexpectedly on the guest list for a National Day dinner tonight in one of the GRC's divisions, Woodgrove.

This signals that Mr Wong may leave his Boon Lay ward in West Coast GRC to anchor Marsiling- Yew Tee GRC.

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on August 01, 2015, with the headline 'Shake-ups in PAP slates expected'. Print Edition | Subscribe