GE2020: All seats contested for second straight GE, Heng Swee Keat springs surprise

SINGAPORE — For the second straight General Election (GE), Singapore will see all parliamentary seats being contested, with 192 candidates from 11 political parties filing nomination papers on Tuesday (30 June).

With no walkovers in any of the 17 group representation constituencies (GRCs) and 14 single-member constituencies (SMCs), all 2.65 million eligible voters will soon be receiving polling cards for them to vote on 10 July.

The biggest surprise came at East Coast GRC, which had been a big question mark in the days leading up to Nomination Day: Which People’s Action Party (PAP) candidate will replace retiring former Manpower Minister Lim Swee Say.

As it turned out, it was Deputy Prime Minister Heng Swee Keat – who is widely expected to become Singapore’s next prime minister – who moved out from Tampines GRC to take over the helming of East Coast. It was a move that very few saw coming.

“COVID-19 has plunged the world into a period of profound uncertainty, into a major crisis on many fronts. The PAP has a plan to enable us to overcome this crisis... a plan to emerge stronger from this,” Heng said in his thank-you speech after submitting his nomination forms at St Anthony’s Canossian Primary School.

“We look forward to working together with our residents to enable East Coast, and the whole of Singapore to emerge from this stronger. So we humbly ask for your support, for your strong endorsement.”

Heng will lead a PAP team that includes Senior Minister of State for Defence and Foreign Affairs Maliki Osman, incumbent Jessica Tan, Tan Kiat How and Cheryl Chan. They will be facing a Workers’ Party (WP) team comprising Nicole Seah, Abdul Shariff Aboo Kassim, Terence Tan, Dylan Ng and Foo Seck Guan.

In her thank-you speech, Seah said the WP has been working “very hard on the ground” in the last five years. “We will stand firm, we will remain courageous, and we will always offer all of you a vote for fairness and balance,” she said. 

NCMP scheme a hot topic

With all 93 seats being contested, Prime Minister and PAP secretary-general Lee Hsien Loong said that his party will have to fight for every vote.

“Every constituency is contested, so this is not a by-election. It's a general election for the most important issues concerning the country at the moment of crisis,” he said after submitting papers for his candidacy for Ang Mo Kio GRC at Deyi Secondary School.

Earlier on Monday, Minister in the Prime Minister’s Office Indranee Rajah had addressed the opposition parties’ urging of voters to vote opposition politicians into Parliament.

She said that there is no need for voters to do so, given that the enhanced Non-Constituency Member of Parliament (NCMP) scheme guarantees at least 12 opposition Members of Parliament (MPs).

“Even if the PAP took all the elected seats, which we do not take for granted and cannot be a given, you will still have 12 (NCMPs),” she had said in a virtual press conference.

SDP chairman Paul Tambyah during a party walkabout in November 2019. (FILE PHOTO: Dhany Osman / Yahoo News Singapore)

Three-way fight for two constituencies

Two constituencies will face three-cornered fights. In Pioneer SMC, PAP’s Patrick Tay will be coming up against Lim Cher Hong from the Progress Singapore Party (PSP) and independent candidate Cheang Peng Wah.

And in Pasir-Ris Punggol GRC, it will also be a three-way battle between PAP (Teo Chee Hean, Janil Puthucheary, Mohamed Sharael Taha, Yeo Wan Ling, Desmond Tan), Peoples Voice (Jireh Lim, Prabu Ramachandran, Mohamed Nassir Ismail, Goh Keow Wah, Vigneswari Ramanchandran) and Singapore Democratic Alliance (Desmond Lim, Abu Mohamed, Harminder Pal Singh, Kuswadi Atnawi, Kelvin Ong).

There was a surprise nomination at Bukit Panjang SMC, when Singapore Democratic Party (SDP) chairman Paul Tambyah decided to move from his previous contest spot in Holland-Bukit Timah GRC to the SMC to face PAP’s Liang Eng Hwa.

SDP secretary-general Chee Soon Juan will face PAP’s Murali Pillai in Bukit Batok SMC for a second straight election, after he lost to Pillai in the 2016 by-election.

Hougang SMC will see WP’s Dennis Tan facing PAP’s Lee Hong Chuang, who is contesting the ward for the second time. WP’s former incumbent MP Png Eng Huat has retired from politics.

Potong Pasir SMC, a former opposition ward from 1984 to 2011, will see two-time incumbent Sitoh Yih Pin of PAP facing first-time candidate Jose Raymond, currently the chairman of Singapore People’s Party, which was founded by the ward’s former opposition MP Chiam See Tong.

Two new SMCs will be contested by new PAP candidates. In Marymount SMC, former Singapore Armed Forces general Gan Siow Huang will face PSP’s Ang Yong Guan, while in Yio Chu Kang, PAP rookie Yip Hon Weng will face PSP’s Kayla Low.

PSP’s Tan Cheng Bock confirmed battling in West Coast GRC

In Aljunied GRC, the WP team of Pritam Singh, Sylvia Lim, Faisal Manap, Gerald Giam and Leon Perera will defend the constituency against a PAP team featuring three candidates in their unsuccessful 2015 team: Shamsul Kamar, Victor Lye and Chua Eng Leong. New candidates Alex Yeo and Chan Hui Yuh complete the PAP team.

In the newly-formed Sengkang GRC, PAP assembled a team consisting NTUC secretary-general Ng Chee Meng, Senior Minister of State for Health and Transport Lam Pin Min, Amrin Amin and Raymond Lye. They will face a WP team consisting He Ting Ru, Louis Chua, Jamus Jerome Lim and Raeesah Begum.

Manpower Minister Josephine Teo has expectedly moved from Bishan-Toa Payoh GRC to Jalan Besar GRC, taking over the retiring former minister Yaacob Ibrahim. She will team up with Denise Phua, Heng Chee How and Wan Rizal Wan Zakariah to face a Peoples Voice team consisting Lim Tean, Leong Sze Hian, Nor Azlan Sulaiman and Michael Fang Amin.

In West Coast GRC, all eyes were on PSP secretary-general Tan Cheng Bock returning to his old Ayer Rajah ward, where he was a former PAP MP from 1980 to 2001. He will be leading a PSP team that includes party vice-chairman Hazel Poa, assistant secretary-general Leong Mun Wai, Jeffrey Khoo and Nadarajah Loganathan.

With previous incumbent minister Lim Hng Kiang retiring, PAP replaced him with Minister for Social and Family Development Desmond Lee, who moved from Jurong GRC to contest in this GRC together with Minister for Communication and Information S Iswaran, Foo Mee Har, Ang Wei Neng and Rachel Ong.

Lee Hsien Yang, younger brother of Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong, will not be contesting in the 2020 General Election for Progress Singapore Party. (FILE PHOTO: Yahoo News Singapore)

PM’s brother Lee Hsien Yang not contesting

However, there was no nomination by PSP of Lee Hsien Yang, the younger brother of PM Lee who joined the opposition party a few months ago.

Despite the younger Lee appearing at Bendemeer Primary School to accompany PSP’s nomination submission for Tanjong Pagar GRC, he didn’t submit any nomination for himself as election candidate.

PSP member Michael Chua later told reporters that the party has never misled voters regarding Hsien Yang’s candidacy.

“He doesn’t think it is a good thing for the continuation of Singapore’s political history to have another Lee come into the picture. Which is why he wants to play a role as an advisor, as a catalyst but not directly being part of this electoral process,” Chua explained. 

The various candidates will begin their campaigning trails from Tuesday to next Wednesday (8 July). There will be a cooling-off day on 9 July where all campaigning must stop, before voters go to the polls on 10 July.

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