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“I felt my work was done”: Low Thia Khiang on why he is not contesting election

Former leader is not retiring from WP but will not be among its 21 candidates contesting in six wards

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Singapore — Veteran politician Low Thia Khiang said that he felt that his work was done, in his first interview since the Workers’ Party announced that, while he would remain a WP member, he would not contest the General Election on July 10.

WP Secretary-General Pritam Singh confirmed that Mr Low is not retiring from the party  but would not be among the party’s 21 candidates contesting in six wards. This is the first election in 32 years that Mr Low will not contest.

Speaking to the press a day after it was announced that he is stepping down from electoral politics, Mr Low said that he is doing so with no regrets since he feels that his work is done.

The 63-year-old said that he had set two goals for himself when he took over as party chief: To secure a Group Representation Constituency (GRC) and renew the leadership of the party. He said he has achieved these goals.

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In 2011, Mr Low left the Hougang Single-Member Constituency (SMC) — where he had served as Member of Parliament (MP) since 1991 — and led a team to run in Aljunied GRC. He was successful and the party was elected in both Hougang SMC and Aljunied GRC in the 2011 and 2015 elections.

In 2018, he handed over the reins of the party to fellow Aljunied GRC MP Pritam Singh. Touching on his work of drawing younger leaders into the party over the past several years, Mr Low said at the interview: “I hope that the Workers’ Party itself has that spirit. The whole organisation’s formation and process is important, and not just an individual… I have always maintained that a party cannot depend on just an individual or a few individuals.”

When asked whether his party would lose some of its appeal without him running on its ticket, Mr Low said: “I do not know how many voters vote solely because of me.”

He also dismissed sentiment that WP is the “Low Thia Khiang party”, pointing out that the opposition party has evolved from having only one MP in 1991 to a team of six MPs and three Non-Constituency Members of Parliament (NCMPs) in the most recent term of Parliament. Mr Low added that the performance of each MP would matter in the eyes of voters.

On how he would like his political career to be remembered, Mr Low said: “I do not have this hope that others will (remember me in any particular way). I have done what I should do, I have no regrets. Of course everyone will have different views. And as a public figure you have to accept them. That’s all. I would not be surprised if someone is scolding me; I accept it.”

He added: “I will remember the people, the voters. I think these are important life assets, friends in Hougang, I will remember them.”

Mr Low’s absence from the WP ticket this year marks the end of an era in Singapore politics. The WP’s immediate past Secretary-General was Singapore’s longest-serving opposition parliamentarian, having seen six consecutive victories at the polls since he was first elected to Parliament in 1991, almost 30 years ago.

Mr Singh’s confirmation that Mr Low would not contest the elections came days after WP members who spoke to the press on condition of anonymity said Mr Low had been considering retirement from politics even before he suffered a fall at his home in April.

The end of an era: Low Thia Khiang will not contest GE2020, Pritam Singh confirms

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