The opposition

WP fields its stronger team in East Coast GRC

WP's candidates contesting in the electoral division of East Coast GRC (from left) Leon Perera, Daniel Goh, Fairoz Shariff, and Gerald Giam await their turn to give a speech outside the school hall of Fengshan Primary School.
WP's candidates contesting in the electoral division of East Coast GRC (from left) Leon Perera, Daniel Goh, Fairoz Shariff, and Gerald Giam await their turn to give a speech outside the school hall of Fengshan Primary School. ST PHOTO: NEO XIAOBIN

The Workers' Party (WP) is fielding a strong slate of candidates, with some of its candidates boasting impressive academic credentials, in East Coast GRC. On paper, it looks stronger than the WP team that contested here in 2011.

Non-Constituency MP Gerald Giam, 37, leads a group that includes a sociology professor and an Oxford-educated consultancy firm chief executive.

Over at Marine Parade GRC, NCMP Yee Jenn Jong, 50, is joined by two lawyers, a chocolate factory owner and a head of wealth management at a bank.

Compared with the candidates in Jalan Besar and Nee Soon GRCs - which the party is also contesting - the East Coast and Marine Parade teams look far stronger, according to observers.

But even though both slates contain professionals with impressive paper qualifications, a closer inspection reveals that the WP's East Coast candidates have a slight edge over their Marine Parade counterparts.

Among its East Coast GRC slate are Mr Leon Perera, 44, who studied in Oxford on a government scholarship and graduated with double first-class honours, while the National University of Singapore's Dr Daniel Goh, 42, has a PhD in sociology from the University of Michigan. Former librarian Mohamed Fairoz Shariff, 36, and Mr Giam both have master's degrees from local universities. All four men were chosen to be part of the panel - led by Mr Giam - to present the WP manifesto.

Mr Yee and his team, comprising lawyer Terence Tan, 44; chocolate factory owner Firuz Khan, 48; corporate lawyer He Ting Ru, 32; and wealth manager Dylan Ng, 40, each have at least bachelor's degrees and are academically accomplished in their own right.

But only Ms He was picked to be part of the manifesto presentation last week. This suggests that more of the East Coast candidates are entrusted to be the face of the party.

By placing its best and brightest in East Coast instead of spreading them to other areas, the WP is taking aim at a group representation constituency it has been chipping away at over the last two general elections.

In 2006, the WP garnered 36.1 per cent, but its vote share rose to 45.2 per cent in 2011.

As for Marine Parade, the party is breaking new ground there. Although the GRC absorbed the Joo Chiat single-seat ward - which Mr Yee lost by a mere 388 votes in 2011 - it is still an uphill battle to clinch a GRC on the first try.

That is perhaps why the WP is fielding its second-tier team in Marine Parade: It wants to secure a strong performance that it can build upon in the future, but is also being realistic about its chances this time round.

What else can be read into the deployment of candidates in other constituencies?

In Nee Soon and Jalan Besar GRCs, the WP can be said to be merely maintaining a holding pattern, instead of trying to land the constituencies.

It has fielded a team of election rookies in Nee Soon against a People's Action Party slate led by Law Minister K. Shanmugam.

And although two repeat candidates are returning to Jalan Besar for a second contest, polytechnic lecturer L. Somasundaram, 52, and medical social worker Frieda Chan, 39, are not names that are easily recognisable.

As for the single seats that the WP is contesting, the candidacy of law firm partner Dennis Tan, 45, in Fengshan SMC confirms his status as a rising star within the party.

He began volunteering with the Joo Chiat campaign in 2011 and was co-opted into the party's Central Executive Council two years later, before being elected into it last year.

Being fielded in an SMC that was carved out of the hotly contested East Coast suggests that the party sees bigger things for him to come.

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on September 02, 2015, with the headline 'WP fields its stronger team in East Coast GRC'. Print Edition | Subscribe