WP eyes 5 GRCs and 5 single wards

Workers' Party chief Low Thia Khiang speaking to a shopper at Rivervale Plaza during a walkabout yesterday. He said the party would return to areas they have contested before. This means the WP will field 28 candidates in the next general election -
Workers' Party chief Low Thia Khiang speaking to a shopper at Rivervale Plaza during a walkabout yesterday. He said the party would return to areas they have contested before. This means the WP will field 28 candidates in the next general election - five more than in 2011 - including in the newly created Jalan Besar GRC and MacPherson and Fengshan SMCs.ST PHOTO: CAROLINE CHIA

Party chief says it will not abandon areas with strong support, even with redrawn boundaries

The Workers' Party (WP) has earmarked five GRCs and five single-seat wards as areas where it will contest, as party chief Low Thia Khiang made it clear it will not abandon areas where it previously enjoyed strong support - even if they are no longer on the electoral map.

In his first comments since the Electoral Boundaries Review Committee's report was released last Friday, he said that "as a matter of principle, the WP will go back to where we have contested before".

This means it will field 28 candidates in the next general election - five more than in 2011.

On its list are the newly created Jalan Besar GRC and the single-seat wards of MacPherson and Fengshan, as well as Marine Parade GRC - which absorbed neighbouring Joo Chiat, where the Workers' Party narrowly lost to the People's Action Party (PAP) in 2011.

The other areas are Aljunied GRC and the Hougang and Punggol East single seats - now held by the WP - and its longstanding targets of East Coast and Nee Soon GRCs and the single seat of Sengkang West.

The Workers' Party secured over 40 per cent of the vote in three GRCs in the 2011 elections - East Coast, Nee Soon and Moulmein-Kallang - and expects to be able to build on this support.

With seven elected MPs and two Non-Constituency MPs in Parliament, the WP's longstanding strategy has been to take over the eastern parts of Singapore, by expanding outwards from constituencies that it holds, to adjacent wards.

Speaking to reporters in Punggol East where WP members were selling the party newsletter, the Hammer, Mr Low explained the move to contest in Marine Parade and MacPherson - which has been carved out of that GRC.

"The whole Joo Chiat has been redrawn into Marine Parade. We don't want to disappoint voters in Joo Chiat who have supported us at the last election. I want to offer them a choice again," he said. 

The WP's Mr Yee Jenn Jong lost in Joo Chiat to the PAP's Mr Charles Chong by just 388 votes in 2011.

As for the interest in MacPherson, he said this is because the WP had been working the ground in Marine Parade as a whole.

Now that MacPherson has been carved out from Marine Parade GRC as a single-seat ward, the party " will also contest areas that are similar or adjoining the area".

In the 2011 General Election, a National Solidarity Party (NSP) team contested in Marine Parade. The party has indicated that it will do so again. Asked about the possibility of clashing with the NSP, Mr Low said: "We will avoid three-cornered fights as far as possible."

But he repeated that the move to contest in Marine Parade was a "matter of principle", given that the GRC will include Joo Chiat. As such, and "given the circumstances, we have to move" into Marine Parade.

WP chairman Sylvia Lim told The Straits Times separately that the party will attend a meeting, scheduled for Friday, which aims to bring all opposition parties together to discuss strategy and avoid multi- cornered fights.

Mr Low was accompanied on yesterday's outing in Punggol East by the constituency's MP Lee Li Lian, who won the seat in a January 2013 by-election. They visited Rivervale Plaza market and shopping centre and, later, Rivervale Mall.

Asked if she felt that she was at a disadvantage - having had less time to build and strengthen links with residents - Ms Lee simply said: "We don't want to speculate, let's see how it goes."

Also walking the ground yesterday were Hougang MP Png Eng Huat, who was out in his ward with Non-Constituency MP Gerald Giam; while Ms Lim and Mr Yee were at Marine Parade.

Mr Png did not want to be drawn into a discussion on how confident he is about defending his seat. "We do our best. We just want to earn the trust of the people here and we are still doing that. There is no expectation of how many per cent of the votes I should get," he said.

Mr Yee, who also is an NCMP, declined to say if he will be fielded in Marine Parade, saying it was for the party to decide.

•Additional reporting by Lim Yan Liang

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on July 27, 2015, with the headline 'WP eyes 5 GRCs and 5 single wards'. Print Edition | Subscribe