SINGAPORE - A three-cornered fight is set for Pioneer SMC, as the Progress Singapore Party (PSP) and an independent candidate will challenge the ruling PAP for the seat.
Two-term People's Action Party (PAP) MP Patrick Tay will face off PSP candidate Lim Cher Hong, 42, author and chartered financial consultant. It is Mr Lim's first election and he was introduced by the party last week.
In a surprise twist, an independent candidate Mr Cheang Peng Wah, a business consultant who declined to give his age, turned up at the Pioneer Jurong Junior College nomination centre on Tuesday (June 30) and is also running for the single seat.
PAP's Mr Tay was previously the MP for the Boon Lay ward in West Coast GRC since 2015. Before he moved over, Pioneer SMC was helmed by Mr Cedric Foo for four terms, even after the single-seat constituency was carved out of West Coast GRC in 2011.
Mr Tay, 48, said: "I will be moving across the road from Jurong west side to Pioneer SMC to look after our residents.
"We're in difficult times. In fact as I'm speaking to you, I'm busy on the ground dealing with challenges and possible (job) layoffs because many residents in Pioneer SMC are PMETs and they're vulnerable and I hope to bring my experience in the NTUC labour movement, in particular the work I've been doing in Parliament for the last decade."
When asked about the three-cornered fight, which has traditionally benefited the ruling party as the opposition votes are split, Mr Tay said during a joint virtual press conference with the PAP team for West Coast GRC later on Tuesday afternoon: "There are various theories and ideas put forward, but the main focus for me and the team in West Coast GRC is to put residents at the heart of all the things we are going to do so that's my key focus moving ahead."
It might have been a four-cornered battle with another independent candidate, Mr Victor Ronnie Lai, 65, turning up at the nomination centre on Tuesday. The retired financial accountant, who carried a bunch of sunflowers and a Singapore flag, could not get enough assenters to enter the centre and left after an hour of waiting.
Peoples Voice's Gilbert Goh, 59, who runs a non-governmental organisation counselling unemployed Singaporeans, had also originally planned to challenge for the Pioneer seat but changed his mind, saying he is "giving way" because PSP is there.
He opted to run instead for Pasir Ris-Punggol GRC with his party against incumbents PAP and fellow opposition side Singapore Democratic Alliance.
Last week, National Solidarity Party (NSP), which has contested the Pioneer ward since 2011, dropped its plan to contest the seat after it came to an agreement with PSP.
Mr Lim said: "The incumbent has the advantage in terms of the votes. He has the grassroot leaders who have been there quite some time... but with Cedric Foo stepping down, perhaps Patrick is not as familiar a face to the Pioneer residents. For PSP, the past few nights we have been working down the ground and they have been very receptive to what we can propose to them, the changes they want.
"I'm not sure why the independent wants to contest. I have not him on the ground. It's strange but I welcome that, even though it's going to dillute some votes. I'm sure the voters know who will serve them better."
On his reasons for standing, Mr Cheang said: "You see the 4G ministers, I don't think they're up to the mark yet. Why? Maybe opposition is not strong enough yet. They're not surrounded by wolves, lions or tigers. So with our help, we can help them get more steel within them to make Singapore better."
In a Facebook post put up Mr Foo in the afternoon, he paid tribute to the residents and volunteers of Pioneer and gave his endorsement to Mr Tay, adding he is "confident that Patrick will serve the residents very well and with dedication, if given the opportunity."
Minister for Communications and Information S. Iswaran, 58, who is leading the PAP team for West Coast GRC, said: "I don't think there's any such thing as an easy contest. If you look at the situation we have - whether it's three-cornered or straight fight - at the end of the day we have to put the case to the voters and win their trust. And we're all facing a tough challenge from opponents who will make the alternative case.
"At the end of the day, the challenge remains the same and we're all applying ourselves with that objective in mind - how to win the trust of our residents and do this in a consistent and conscientious way."
Both constituencies, which fall under the West Coast Town Council, will work closely together to share resources and abilities, added Mr Iswaran.
Mr Tay has held the post of chairman of the West Coast Town Council for the past five years.
In the 2015 General Election, Mr Foo received a vote share of 76.34 per cent, beating NSP's Elvin Ong 23.66 per cent.
There are 24,672 electors in Pioneer SMC, down slightly from the 2015 total of 25,458.