PAP's strategy for Aljunied

The ruling party is wary of fielding office holders in Aljunied GRC where the Workers' Party has many supporters (above).
The ruling party is wary of fielding office holders in Aljunied GRC where the Workers' Party has many supporters (above). ST FILE PHOTO

Five years ago, the People's Action Party (PAP) lost two Cabinet ministers when Aljunied became the first GRC to fall into opposition hands.

Today, the ruling party is more chary about risking a political office-holder in the GRC held by the Workers' Party (WP), PAP organising secretary Ng Eng Hen said.

"We will fight for each vote and we will put in candidates that we feel can be a better team to take care of the municipal issues. But the realpolitik is if we feel we don't have that support, we'll have to make our own calculations," he told The Sunday Times.

"Why would we want to field somebody that we know has a higher chance of being rejected and deprive ourselves of an office-holder?Suppose you put five ministers in (Aljunied). Does that serve the purpose? Is it fair to other constituencies who have shown us greater support?"

Instead, Dr Ng, who is Defence Minister, said the PAP strategy in Aljunied GRC is to stick to its "golden rule": field a team capable of taking care of the town.

"That's the minimum standard: that they have honesty, integrity and competency, and pass muster," he said.

His comments follow the scrutiny that the WP-run town council managing the GRC has come under for accounting and governance lapses - detailed in a special audit report in February by the Auditor-General's Office.

In 2011, the WP won 54.7 per cent of the Aljunied GRC vote, beating a veteran PAP team led by then Foreign Affairs Minister George Yeo and comprising then Minister in the Prime Minister's Office Lim Hwee Hua, Senior Minister of State (Foreign Affairs) Zainul Abidin Rasheed, new face Ong Ye Kung and MP Cynthia Phua.

This time, the PAP troops seen in Aljunied GRC and the neighbouring WP-held single seats of Hougang and Punggol East are new faces, mostly from the private sector.

They include private banker Chua Eng Leong, SMRT deputy directo

r Kahar Hassan, former investment manager Victor Lye, Rajah & Tann lawyer K. Muralidharan Pillai and voice-over artist Chan Hui Yuh in Aljunied GRC; IT manager Lee Hong Chuang in Hougang; and CIMB Bank Catalist head Yee Chia Hsing in Punggol East.

None has been cited yet as a potential office-holder. Still, if an incumbent or potential minister loses, the PAP could technically bring him into Cabinet by first making him a Nominated MP. While this is allowed under Singapore's Constitution, Dr Ng said it is "unlikely" the PAP will do so.

"I would not go that course," he said. "To have the electorate vote against somebody and then to bring him in as an NMP to make him a minister doesn't speak well of the system."

Fiona Chan

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A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Sunday Times on July 05, 2015, with the headline PAP's strategy for Aljunied. Subscribe