Hot seats: GRCs to watch - Holland-Bukit Timah

Chee returns to electoral battle

SDP chief Chee Soon Juan (left) greeting a supporter of the PAP at the nomination centre at Assumption Pathway School yesterday.
SDP chief Chee Soon Juan (left) greeting a supporter of the PAP at the nomination centre at Assumption Pathway School yesterday.ST PHOTO: YEO KAI WEN

After having to sit out the last two elections in 2006 and 2011, Singapore Democratic Party (SDP) chief Chee Soon Juan has chosen Holland-Bukit Timah GRC for his return to front-line politics.

He was banned from running earlier because he was bankrupt and not eligible to take part in elections. This year, he is part of the SDP's "A" team along with National University of Singapore Yong Yoo Lin School of Medicine professor Paul Tambyah, 50; compliance auditor Sidek Mallek, 55; and healthcare administrator Chong Wai Fung, 45.

They are challenging the incumbent People's Action Party team comprising Environment and Water Resources Minister Vivian Balakrishnan, 54; Minister of State for Education and Communications and Information Sim Ann, 40; lawyer Christopher de Souza, 39; and DBS Bank managing director Liang Eng Hwa, 51.

Dr Chee, 53, a former university lecturer, was cleared of his bankruptcy in 2012. He had stood for elections unsuccessfully in 1992, 1997 and 2001, contesting in Marine Parade GRC, MacPherson SMC and Jurong GRC respectively.

With his imminent return to contesting an election this year, he had remained tight-lipped about where he would go right up to Nomination Day yesterday.

The SDP contested Holland-Bukit Timah GRC in 2011, garnering 39.9 per cent of the vote.

Its team that year comprised former senior civil servant Tan Jee Say, psychiatrist Ang Yong Guan, private school teacher Michelle Lee and activist Vincent Wijeysingha. This year, Mr Tan and Dr Ang are no longer with the SDP, and are contesting the polls under the banner of the new Singaporeans First party. Mr Wijeysingha and Ms Lee have quit politics.

Dr Chee's choice of Holland-Bukit Timah has raised questions about whether he might have had a better shot at success in a single-member constituency or a new GRC like Marsiling-Yew Tee.

SingFirst founder Tan Jee Say said: " Holland-Bukit Timah has a lot of young middle-class families and I think Dr Chee will appeal to them. In the last elections, we established a base of about 40 per cent, so it is quite a good base for him to work on. And this time round, he has a good partner, Professor Paul Tambyah."

Opposition veteran and political observer Wong Wee Nam also thought the GRC was right for Dr Chee as the SDP has contested there before. "I think there's a fight there. Personality-wise, they have a good team," he said.

But would it be a poor outcome if Dr Chee does not perform as well as the SDP's 2011 team?

"It doesn't matter even if he doesn't do that well," said Dr Wong. "It's the voters' choice. I don't think that is important. Maybe our Prime Minister may not do as well as before either; it doesn't matter."

The SDP is fielding 11 candidates this year, and aside from Holland-Bukit Timah, it is also contesting Marsiling-Yew Tee GRC as well as Yuhua, Bukit Batok and Bukit Panjang SMCs.

One of Dr Chee's teammates, Ms Chong, said: "Soon Juan did not decide on Holland-Bukit Timah from Day One.

"We tried various combinations of our 11 candidates. Based on our strengths and experience, we are probably the best mix for the Holland-Bukit Timah team."

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on September 02, 2015, with the headline 'Chee returns to electoral battle'. Print Edition | Subscribe