The internal elections held by the Workers’ Party (WP) on 27 December saw younger faces voted into the party’s Central Executive Committee (CEC).
A snapshot of the WP’s CEC members shows clearly that the WP believes in blooding the younger members of the party – evidence of a realisation that as times change, younger members are required to connect with the evolving voter demographics.
In comparison, the CEC of the dominant Peoples’ Action Party (PAP)’s age differential could not be more starkly divergent.
PAP’s 36th CEC was voted in on 19 November and comprises a large proportion of men in their 50s and 60s.
The oldest, Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong (PM Lee), is pushing 69. The youngest, Alex Yam, is 39.
In contrast, the WP has put its trust in a younger set of leaders who are mostly in their 30s and 40s.
The oldest member of the WP’s CEC is the party’s former secretary-general Low Thia Khiang (Low), who is 64. The youngest is Raeesah Khan, who turned 27 last month.
What does this say about the philosophies of the two parties?
Does the PAP have a dearth of young talent? Or is it a case of the older generation not trusting the younger members of the party? Worse still, is it a case of the Old Guards unwilling to relinquish power?
Recent reports of PM Lee not retiring when he reaches 70 as he had previously planned lend credence to the belief that, for whatever reason, the younger crop of PAP leaders is not yet ready to come into power.
In comparison, Low has shown a willingness to step aside to make way for Pritam Singh (44) and Sylvia Lim (55) to take on more dominant roles in WP.
It is notable that Singh, who has been re-elected as secretary-general, is over 20 years younger than PM Lee!
While the experience of our elders is invaluable, it can be an area of concern if there is an over-reliance on the older generation.
Further, there is also the issue of connecting with the concerns of a younger generation of Singaporeans. In this regard, Singh would undoubtedly have an advantage over PM Lee.
The CEC composition does indicate a philosophical polarity between the two parties — WP’s CEC election results hint at a party that is willing to empower the young. The PAP’s CEC, on the other hand, displays a more dated patriarchal system whereby the old pontificate and the young obey.
While the PAP remains firmly in charge, it might lose its relevance to a party like the WP if it continues to embark on its conservative and paternalistic trajectory.