Thursday, December 13, 2012

Punggol East SMC - Is the Workers' Party the Only Choice?

Following the sudden resignation of PAP MP Michael Palmer for having an affair with a PA staff working in Pasir Ris-Punggol GRC, a by-election has to be called for the vacated single seat at Punggol East SMC.

Shortly after the announcement, two parties have been quick to announce their positions. The Workers’ Party (WP) has affirmed their desire to contest the seat, and Singapore People’s Party (SPP) Chairperson Lina Chiam, has opined that “the Workers’ Party should have the priority to contest in the by-election, due to their earlier involvement in the constituency during the 2011 General Election.”

With the controversy surrounding WP’s Yaw Shin Leong’s resignation from his Hougang SMC seat under similar circumstances, it would seem like poetic justice for the WP to claim another election scalp. While the need for a by-election is certain, I would hope that the bout line-up is not prematurely fixed.

In the last General Election in 2011, Desmond Lim Bak Chuan of the Singapore Democratic Alliance (SDA), received a lot of criticism for initiating a three-cornered fight and not graciously stepping out of WP’s Lee Li Lian’s way. Back then I felt that this criticism was harsh, and I fear the same will be repeated for any party ‘full-hardy’ enough to get in WP’s way. While Lina Chiam might think that the WP has some pre-ordained right to contest Punggol East SMC, let us not forget that not one, but three other opposition parties have similarly contested this electoral real estate in the past. 

Back in 1988, Abdul Rasheed of the Singapore Democratic Party (SDP) stood in what was then, Punggol SMC. He attained a respectable 40.1% of the votes.

Subsequently in the 1991 elections, Punggol SMC was absorbed into Cheng San GRC. This GRC was contested by National Solidarity Party (NSP), which garnered 35.9% of the votes .

 In the 2001 elections Cheng San GRC controversially split into Aljunied GRC, Ang Mo Kio GRC and Pasir Ris-Punggol GRC. Pasir Ris-Punggol saw a walkover that year, but was challenged by the SDA in the next elections in 2006. And of course we all remember the 2011 elections, where Punggol East SMC was carved out of Pasir Ris-Punggol GRC.

Therefore, contrary to popular belief and short-termed memories, the WP is not the only natural choice. I do hope that more qualified candidates from other parties give serious consideration to contesting Punggol East SMC. And if such a candidate should emerge, I wonder if the WP supporters are matured enough to recognize this.

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