Low Thia Khiang emphasized from the outset that he had contemplated and had decided to move out of Hougang and contest in a GRC a long time ago. The question, rather, was when and how it should be done.
A key to his decision was his observation that opposition parties have not made progress in parliament since he was first elected in 1991. After the 1997 elections, the number of opposition MPs stagnated at two – himself and Chiam See Tong. ‘Is this desirable for Singapore?” Mr Low asked at the press conference at the Workers’ Party HQ on Thursday. “Is this what Singaporeans want?”
Mr Low said the Worker’s Party believes that Singaporeans want more democracy, and that they want a First World parliament. Hence it is serious about breaking into a GRC.
Together with his party, Mr Low made the hard decision to move out of Hougang and into Aljunied GRC – a natural choice of GRC, since that constituency showed strong support for the Worker’s Party in the 2006 elections, and since Sylvia Lim has been working the ground there as well.
He was most determined to make his move when the boundary report was released earlier this year. That report indicated that 29, 000 residents of Aljunied GRC, which had given the Worker’s Party substantial support in 2006, was to be zoned out to Ang Mo Kio GRC, among other constituencies.
Therefore it would be ‘wishful thinking’ that Aljunied GRC could be won without putting in high stakes, ‘based on the way the PAP gerrymanders at every election’, Mr Low said. The disappearance of Cheng San GRC, wherethe Worker’s Party team garnered 45% of the vote share in the 1997 elections, was not to be forgotten.
Mr Low also explained the choice of Yaw Shin Leong to take over his candidature in Hougang. He said Mr Yaw has been with the party for a long time. From 2001-05, he was a Hougang Town Councillor. In the 2006 elections, Yaw led a Worker’s Party team that polled more than one-third of the votes in Ang Mo Kio GRC, against Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong’s incumbent PAP team.
Yaw has also worked the ground in Hougang for the past three years. “Every Hougang resident should have his namecard by now”, said Low in jest.
Other members of the Worker’s Party Aljunied GRC team – ‘an A-plus team’, as described by one journalist at the press conference – also spoke. 34-year-old Mr Pritam Singh aims to represent the views of his age group. Mr Muhamad Faisal bin Adbul Manap said he would be humbled to serve alongside his colleagues. Mr Chen Show Mao declared that ‘we take this small step to help Singapore take a big step’.
While acknowledging the risks that parliament could end up with no opposition MPs this time, Low is confident of his chances in Aljunied and said that ‘the ground is sweet’.
NB. Low Thia Khiang has written an open letter to the residents of Hougang SMC to explain his decision to contest Aljunied GRC.