Mainstream media publications, The Straits Times and Shin Min Daily News, have suggested that Workers’ Party (WP) Member of Parliament (MP) Chen Show Mao may not be fielded in his Aljunied Group Representation Constituency (GRC) during the next General Election (GE).
An experienced and respected lawyer with degrees from Harvard, Oxford and Stanford universities, Mr Chen was fielded as a star candidate in the WP team contesting Aljunied GRC in the 2011 GE. Mr Chen and his team, which included heavyweight politicians like Low Thia Khiang and Sylvia Lim, won Aljunied GRC from the ruling People’s Action Party (PAP).
The electoral victory was historical since it marked the first time an opposition party had ever won a GRC, since Singapore attained independence. The WP managed to beat all the odds and emerged as the victor, ousting then-Foreign Minister and Aljunied incumbent George Yeo from Parliament and the cabinet.
The WP’s five-man team held on to Aljunied GRC in the 2015 General Election. In 2016, Mr Chen ran for the position of WP secretary-general in the party’s internal elections against then party chief Low Thia Khiang and lost.
It was the first time that Mr Low was challenged for the top post since he took it up in 2001 and Mr Low retained his seat with 61 votes, to Mr Chen’s 45 votes. Last year, the party named Pritam Singh as its new secretary-general when Mr Low stepped down.
Mr Chen has always maintained that he was nominated to take part in the internal elections and that he was grateful for the opportunity that allowed party members to exercise their democratic rights to choose how to govern themselves. He said in 2016 that he and his fellow party members have a shared vision for a strong, growing and diverse WP.
Despite Mr Chen’s clarification, some publications have continued to characterise Mr Chen’s participation in the internal election as a calculated move that was meant to oust veteran opposition politician Low Thia Khiang from his position as party chief.
In a recent report, The Straits Times cited “chatter” and said that Mr Chen may not be fielded in Aljunied GRC for the coming GE. The publication said that party members have reported that Mr Chen is not as active in his party as before, “since the failed leadership challenge he mounted against Mr Low in the party’s internal elections in 2016.”
The publication added that Mr Chen’s performance in Parliament has been “muted” and said that Mr Chen has allegedly been absent from internal meetings in recent months.
The Straits Times quoted unnamed WP members who “privately speculated” that Mr Chen may join other opposition parties since he has apparently been seen at events held by the Singapore Democratic Party (SDP) and Progress Singapore Party (PSP)
The Chinese daily also published speculation that Aljunied MP Chen Show Mao could leave the Workers’ Party (WP), ahead of the next General Election. The publication echoed that Mr Chen – who serves in the WP Central Executive Committee as its Treasurer – has been seen at activities organised by the SDP and PSP while being absent at his own party’s internal meetings.
The Chinese daily reported that Mr Chen’s failed leadership challenge in 2016 has led him to lose prominence within his party and that this – along with his recent appearances at event organised by other political parties – could mean that he may not contest the next GE under the WP ticket.
Another local publication, alternative news portal RedWire Times, quoted a “GE insider” and made similar conjecture.
It said that Mr Chen “has reportedly been missing-in-action at several party meetings in recent months” and that he has “been seen attending events hosted by the Singapore Democrats and Dr Tan Cheng Bock’s newly-formed Progress Singapore Party.”
The publication called Mr Chen’s absence at WP meetings “startling” and reported that the past three years have been “rocky” for the politician since he lost the internal election in 2016.
The Independent has reached out to Mr Chen for comment and will update this article once we receive a response. -/TISG