Mar 20, 2011
Opposition to field at least 40 newcomers
Biggest haul in more than 20 years includes more entrepreneurs, women than PAP slate
By Kor Kian Beng and Jeremy Au Yong, Political Correspondent
The next general election could see opposition parties fielding at least 40 first-time candidates – their biggest slate of newcomers in more than 20 years.
So far, opposition parties have unveiled 13 as candidates. Sources have identified another 15 as highly likely and 12 as possible contestants.
This year’s haul is larger than that in 2006, when 27 of the 47 who stepped forward for the opposition were first-timers.
From 1988 to 2001, opposition parties mustered no more than 40 candidates in all in each election to challenge the People’s Action Party (PAP). This round, the opposition has pledged to contest all 87 seats up for grabs.
The bulk of the newcomers – and arguably the best-qualified – belong to the Workers’ Party (WP) and the National Solidarity Party (NSP). Each has 10 or more new faces.
Political observers say this is an outcome of the two parties’ proactive recruitment efforts and their reputations being stronger with more realistic chances of winning.
The NSP is likely to field Ms Hazel Poa, 41, the first former government administrative officer to contest under an opposition banner. She served for four years in the Government’s elite Administrative Service, from 1992 to 1995.
Her husband Tony Tan, 41, a Singapore Armed Forces scholarship holder who served as a major, is also an NSP candidate. They run a chain of tuition centres.
As for the WP, its A-list is likely to include Mr Chen Show Mao, 50, a Beijing-based corporate lawyer in international law firm Davis Polk & Wardwell.
He is a Rhodes Scholarship winner, has degrees from Harvard, Oxford and Stanford universities, and sits on the Singapore Management University’s law school advisory board, alongside former chief justice Yong Pung How and senior counsel and retired PAP MP Davinder Singh.
Two other rookies who will be keenly watched are Mrs Lina Chiam, 62, wife of Potong Pasir MP Chiam See Tong, and Reform Party chief Kenneth Jeyaretnam, 52, a former hedge fund manager in London and elder son of the late opposition veteran J.B. Jeyaretnam.
The current batch of opposition freshmen are slightly older than those in the PAP batch. The average age for the opposition slate is 42.9 years, based on the ages of the 28 confirmed and likely new faces, five of whom are aged 50 and above.
The average age for the PAP’s likely slate of 24 new faces is 39.2.
While the PAP has drawn many of its new faces from the public sector and the unions, the opposition slate has more entrepreneurs and more women. The opposition lineup is likely to include eight businessmen, compared with the PAP’s one; and nine women, compared with the PAP’s three.
The opposition newcomer ranks also include three social workers, a theatre director, two academics, and eight holding rank-and-file jobs in the private sector.
Political analyst Derek da Cunha said the high-profile rookies could help the opposition win support. ‘Most voters take it for granted that PAP candidates would be highly qualified… but when the opposition takes the effort to put up a particularly strong candidate, that is something that is clearly new and will attract interest and scrutiny,’ he said.
WP chief Low Thia Khiang, 54, has urged voters to view opposition renewal as a key issue at these polls. He hopes voters, especially younger ones, will support new leaders ‘who can give them an alternative choice’ and lead the opposition movement in future.
Tampines GRC voter Ng Kah Fei, 31, an engineer, said new opposition leaders must also prove they have good proposals to improve Singapore, and not repeat the ‘same complaints’ that the opposition has made over the years.
Sembawang GRC resident Ouyang Huixian, 23, an associate at a financial education firm, said: ‘I won’t choose opposition just for the sake of having opposition representation. The candidate must have drive, genuine empathy for people on the ground, and also a sound understanding of key issues.’
OPPOSITION’S NEW FACES
WORKERS’ PARTY (WP)
Mr Chen Show Mao,
50, a partner in international law firm Davis Polk & Wardwell’s Beijing office.Likely battleground:
A group representation constituency (GRC)
Mr Gerald Giam, 34, senior IT consultant and WP assistant webmaster.Likely battleground: East Coast GRC
Dr John Yam, 48, business consultant and WP Northern Area Committee chairmanLikely battleground: Nee Soon GRC
Mr Png Eng Huat, 49, businessman, WP Eastern Area Committee vice-chairmanLikely battleground: East Coast GRC
Mr Mohamed Fazli Talip, 29, financial adviserLikely battleground: East Coast GRC
Mr Muhamad Faisal Abdul Manap, 35, a counsellor with a voluntary welfare organisationLikely battleground: Aljunied GRC
Mr Koh Choong Yong, 37, IT consultant, WP webmaster and youth wing presidentLikely battleground: Unknown
Ms Angela Faye Oon, 32, researcherLikely battleground: Nee Soon GRC
Ms Ng Swee Bee, 30, executive assistant in a local company and WP organising secretaryLikely battleground: Unknown
Ms Frieda Chan, 34, social worker and WP central executive committee member.Likely battleground: Unknown
NATIONAL SOLIDARITY PARTY (NSP)
Mr Tony Tan, 41, owns a chain of tuition centresLikely battleground: Moulmein-Kallang GRC
Ms Hazel Poa, 41, owns a chain of tuition centresLikely battleground: Moulmein-Kallang GRC
Mr Jeisilan Sivalingam, 41, productivity consultantLikely battleground: Moulmein-Kallang GRC
Mrs Jeannette Chong-Aruldoss, 48, lawyerLikely battleground: Mountbatten single-member constituency (SMC)
Ms Nor Lella Mardiiiah Mohamed, 37, business consultant, head of NSP’s Malay bureauLikely battleground: Moulmein-Kallang GRC
Mr Raymond Lim, 27, consulting analystLikely battleground: Tampines GRC
Mr Gilbert Goh , 49, career counsellorLikely battleground: Unknown
Mr Syafarin Sarif, 35, project managerLikely battleground: Tampines GRC
Ms Noraini Yunus, 42, customer acquisition officerLikely battleground: Unknown
SINGAPORE DEMOCRATIC PARTY (SDP)
Dr Vincent Wijeysingha, 40, executive director of migrant workers’ rights group Transient Workers Count TooLikely battleground: Holland-Bukit Timah GRC
Mr Michael Fernandez, 77, former unionist and ex-detainee under the Internal Security ActLikely battleground: Holland-Bukit Timah GRC
Mr John Tan, 49, academic and SDP assistant secretary- generalLikely battleground: Holland-Bukit Timah GRC
Ms Jaslyn Go, 38, entrepreneur and secretary of the United Singapore Democrats partyLikely battleground: Unknown
SINGAPORE PEOPLE’S PARTY (SPP)
Mrs Lina Chiam, 62, wife of Potong Pasir MP Chiam See Tong and a former nurse, SPP second vice-chairmanLikely battleground: Potong Pasir SMC
REFORM PARTY (RP)
Mr Kenneth Jeyaretnam, 52, former hedge fund manager and RP secretary-generalLikely battleground: Radin Mas or Pioneer SMC
Mr Alec Tok, 45, New York-based theatre directorLikely battleground: Unknown
SINGAPORE DEMOCRATIC ALLIANCE (SDA)
A grouping comprising Singapore Malay National Organisation (PKMS) and Singapore Justice Party
Mr Nazem Suki, 42, owner of a trading company and PKMS secretary-generalLikely battleground: Radin Mas SMC
Mr Andrew Kuan, 57, runs his own business consultancy, a presidential hopeful in 2005Likely battleground: Joo Chiat SMC