“Charismatic” may not be a term used to describe Deputy Prime Minister Heng Swee Keat, but he can demonstrate his competence in other ways, said the Workers’ Party (WP) chair and Aljunied GRC MP-elect Sylvia Lim.
In an interview with Bloomberg TV on 13 July, Ms Lim said — in response to a question on what leadership style she thinks Mr Heng will adopt if he succeeds Lee Hsien Loong as Prime Minister — that based on her personal observation, “he might be more comfortable crunching numbers and so on”.
“Well, I actually know DPM Heng personally, although not very well, because he was a police scholar and I was a police officer in the past. In fact, he headed the recruitment interview when I was recruited to the police force.
“By all accounts, I think everyone agrees that he’s a very decent man. But I suppose in a sense, he might be more comfortable crunching numbers and so on … Charismatic is not a term that we would ascribe to him, but that doesn’t mean of course, that the Prime Minister has to be charismatic in a firebrand manner,” she said.
Mr Heng, said Ms Lim, “can show competence in other ways”.
“I do believe that as and when DPM Heng becomes PM, he will have his own style of leadership, he will have a team with him.
“So it’s not just him alone, and collectively if a team is able to move forward and convince Singaporeans that they are the party most capable of improving the standard of life, then they probably can make the necessary adjustments to maintain voter confidence,” she said.
When asked about Mr Heng’s campaign in the East Coast GRC, which saw his party winning by a fairly small margin of 53.41 per cent of the vote share, Ms Lim said in reference to the last-minute move from Tampines GRC where Mr Heng was the anchor minister: “I do not know how much time he and his team had to really work out a strategy”.
“It appeared as if the campaign wasn’t well prepared. So I’m not sure how much of that is really attributed to him per se or to the party as a whole,” she said.
TODAY earlier quoted PAP party activists who were disappointed with the East Coast GRC results, saying that they had hoped that Mr Heng could win by a larger margin to prove that he could win the nation’s mandate in the future.
“While some activists believe Mr Heng is valuable to the 4G team, they noted that his “East Coast plan” Nomination Day speech gaffe, which attracted much attention online, did not do him any favours, and the small margin his team won suggested he might not be the “unifying figure” needed for the country,” TODAY wrote.
S’pore, PAP character assassination tactics “backfired” in recent election: WP chair Sylvia Lim
When asked on how she perceives WP’s performance as well as that of other alternative parties in the recent general election, Ms Lim said that the party is “very pleased” with the “vote of confidence” given to WP candidates, particularly the “breakthrough” made in the newly-carved Sengkang GRC.
However, she highlighted that in comparison to the ruling People’s Action Party (PAP), WP still has a significantly smaller presence in Parliament.
“We have gained 10 seats, but a reality check is that it’s 10 out of 93 seats. In many countries in the world, that would be considered a marginalised presence in Parliament,” she quipped.
Responding to a question on whether younger voters were the ones that had tipped the balance in favour of alternative parties, Ms Lim said that while WP did not initially expect to win in Sengkang GRC — an area where the demographic is predominantly under 35 years of age — the momentum “shifted” during campaigning.
“Our team in that area matched the profile of the voters … The oldest candidate is 44, the youngest is 26. They are all parents of young children, which is basically the profile of a large number of voters in that area,” she observed.
Ms Lim, however, said that she could not make conclusions on a national scale regarding whether young voters had tipped the balance.
She added that young voters appear to adopt a different approach to politics compared to older voters.
“The older voters perhaps are more used to hardline, combative campaigning,” said Ms Lim.
Tactics purportedly deployed by the ruling party such as character assassination, however, have “backfired especially among the younger voters”, she opined.
“I think it bodes well for the future. We want a Singapore that is inclusive of different views,” she said.
One of the issues WP intends to raise — on top of economic issues — in the new Parliament term, said Ms Lim, is how to cultivate a freer society and how press freedom in Singapore “can be better than the current ranking of 158 in the world”.
Possibility of opposition parties becoming “true alternative” to PAP will increase incrementally, not in “a big bang”: WP chair Sylvia Lim
When asked on whether she envisions the opposition becoming a true alternative to the PAP someday, Ms Lim said that “Rome wasn’t built in a day”, and that such a change will come “more incrementally” as opposed to a “big bang”.
“A lot of how Singapore moves forward, whether the ruling party will have a smaller majority in parliament in the next few elections or whether it deteriorates to the point where the voters feel that another party is able to take over — this is all in the horizon — not so immediate.
“What our elections have shown is that Singaporean voters, in general, take their vote very seriously … I don’t think they will, in general, vote just as a protest, but they will also look at what is at stake, who is providing the alternative and whether they think they can accept that person as their member of parliament,” she elaborated.