The People’s Action Party (PAP) made an unexpected and last minute move on Nomination Day yesterday (30 June) by moving Heng Swee Keat to East Coast Group Representation Constituency (GRC) where the Workers’ Party’s popular candidate Nicole Seah and her team have announced their contest.
Mr Heng, who served as Finance Minister and Deputy Prime Minister before parliament was dissolved, previously anchored and defended Tampines GRC for the PAP.
In East Coast GRC, Mr Heng will be running alongside former Senior Minister of State for Defence and Foreign Affairs Maliki Osman, three-term backbencher Jessica Tan, former Infocomm Media Development Authority CEO Tan Kiat How, and one-term Fengshan MP Cheryl Chan.
The PAP will be facing off with the WP team that comprises Ms Seah, an advertising executive, wealth advisory firm director Dylan Ng Foo Eng, Singapore Cancer Society deputy director Kenneth Foo Seck Guan, lawyer Terence Tan Li-Chern, and former researcher Abdul Shariff Aboo Kassim.
The face-off between the two political parties in East Coast GRC was put into the spotlight as it involves Mr Heng, who is tipped to be the next Prime Minister, and Ms Seah, a former member of the National Solidarity Party (NSP) who made her political comeback this year as a member of WP.
Later in the day, after nominations have been confirmed, social media was alit with calls to vote WP in East Coast GRC and Progress Singapore Party (PSP) in Tanjong Pagar so that Tharman Shanmugaratnam of PAP may become Singapore’s next Prime Minister.
This is because Mr Heng is slated to succeed Lee Hsien Loong as Prime Minister (PM) after this GE, and PAP’s Chan Chun Sing, who is leading the PAP team in Tanjong Pagar, is next in line to succeed Mr Heng. Neither Mr Heng nor Mr Chan are as popular as Mr Tharman to be Singapore’s next PM.
Mr Tharman is leading the PAP’s five-member team against Red Dot United (RDU) in Jurong GRC in this election.
One netizen, who goes by the name Kelven Tan, wrote on Facebook yesterday, beseeching residents of East Coast GRC to vote for Ms Seah and highlighted three “benefits” of doing so. The post was also shared on All Singapore Stuff on the same day.
“To East Coast voters, please vote WP and vote Heng Swee Keat out,” he wrote.
Mr Tan noted the first benefit of voting Mr Heng out is that there are chances for Mr Tharman to be elected as the Prime Minister of Singapore.
“This is the best chance for us to get Tharman as Singapore’s PM, if Heng is out,” he stated.
The second advantage that Mr Tan highlighted is that the people will have an excellent WP member in Parliament if Ms Seah wins the election.
As for the third point, he wrote, “You send the signal that the PAP should not be so kia su as to field big guns in order to deprive us of good opposition candidates and parties while protecting weak PAP candidates in a GRC”.
“Heng Swee Keat can be appointed to head GIC or better still, Temasek Holdings to replace Ho Ching; the government will never waste such a finance talent as he is; he need not be in politics to serve Singapore; or he could be fielded as President after Halimah,” Mr Tan added.
In fact, a handful of netizens also penned their thoughts in a thread on Hardwarezone that titled “Vote Heng Swee Keat out = Get Tharman as next PM!!” voicing their support for Mr Tharman being elected as Singapore’s next Prime Minister.
But some netizens did not stop here. Many realised the designated successor to Mr Heng has to be removed too, to clear the way for Mr Tharman. This person being Chan Chun Sing and thus residents of Tanjong Pagar have been urged to vote for PSP and remove Mr Chan from the picture as well.
The rationale being, Mr Heng is the first assistant secretary-general of the PAP, and Mr Chan is the second assistant secretary-general of the party. The leaders of political parties in Singapore are the Secretary-generals, and if any party becomes the ruling party, its Secretary-general is the Prime Minister. Lee Hsien Loong is currently the Secretary-general of the PAP, Mr Heng being the first assistant secretary-general will take Mr Lee’s place and should Mr Heng step down, Mr Chan will fill in.
PAP’s Tharman Shanmugaratnam, the most popular candidate to be Singapore’s next PM
Most Singaporeans would favour Mr Tharman as their next Prime Minister instead of Mr Heng.
This was proven in 2016, when 69 per cent of 897 respondents have voted for him to be the Prime Minister in a Blackbox survey commissioned by Yahoo Singapore. Mr Heng, on the other hand, took the second spot with only 25 per cent of the votes.
According to the survey, Mr Tharman was favoured across different age groups and ethnicities, as well as socio-economic status.
Moreover, Facebook user Mark Rozells posted a poll on Facebook last year to ask people to choose between the two PAP members – Mr Heng and Mr Tharman – and vote which one of them should be Singapore’s next Prime Minister.
The poll went viral and garnered about 22,100 responses, in which 92 per cent voted for Mr Tharman and only 8 per cent voted for Mr Heng.
Speculations that the PAP might win big in this GE
Singapore has been ruled by the incumbent People’s Action Party (PAP) for over 50 years now, as it has won every single General Election since independence.
The WP earlier on had warned that there is a real risk of a “wipeout” for the alternative parties this GE due to the razor-thin victory that it had in the last election for Aljunied GRC.
“The slogan calls into focus the overwhelming parliamentary super-majority held by the People’s Action Party (PAP). There’s a real risk of a wipeout of elected opposition MPs with 100 per cent of the elected seats in PAP hands at these general elections,” said the WP chief Pritam Singh as he unveiled his Party’s manifesto.
Following that, the Party called on Singaporeans to make their vote count by voting in more representatives from a constructive and rational alternative party — the kind of political party it has strived to be before and during its time inside and outside of Parliament.
Besides the WP, some political analysts also speculated that the PAP could win big in this coming election.
Political analyst Loke Hoe Yeong – who wrote the book titled ‘The First Wave’ – said that “most voters still want a PAP Government, with a relatively smaller opposition to keep the PAP in check”, as reported by The Straits Times on 30 June.
“The more astute opposition parties understand this ‘push and pull’ cycle of Singapore politics, and they have strategised accordingly,” Mr Loke noted.
Dr Felix Tan, who is an associate lecturer at SIM Global Education, opined that voters are not looking for an overhaul of politics. He added that Singaporeans will choose familiar alternative parties and politicians such as the WP and Progress Singapore Party (PSP) chief Tan Cheng Bock due to their track record and the similarity of the messaging.
“Any political party in Singapore (hoping to gain ground) cannot deviate too much from PAP,” Dr Tan remarked.