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The battle is on! Reform Party not giving up West Coast GRC to PSP

A three-cornered fight likely although this could dilute the vote for the opposition




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Singapore — The opposition Reform Party is not giving up West Coast GRC to the new Progress Singapore Party (PSP) in the coming General Election.

The RP announced its slate of candidates for the ward on Monday (June 15), while the PSP will announce its candidates on Thursday (June 18).

The RP, led by Secretary-General Kenneth Jeyaretnam, contested West Coast GRC in both the 2011 and 2015 elections and has been walking the ground there over the years.

While RP has repeatedly mentioned its intention to contest West Coast GRC again in the coming elections, the PSP has also expressed an interest in the ward. This sets up a  possible three-cornered fight — the RP, the PSP and the People’s Action Party.

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The PSP is led by former PAP politician Tan Cheng Bock, who represented Ayer Rajah in Parliament for over two decades when it was a single-member ward. Ayer Rajah was absorbed into West Coast GRC in the 2006 elections, when Dr Tan retired from politics.

Dr Tan came out of political retirement to form his own opposition party last year and has said that his eye is on West Coast GRC. Dr Tan walked the ground at West Coast before safe distancing measures were introduced to prevent the spread of Covid-19. He  had said: “I met many of my former constituents and I was asked if I was coming home. I never left.”

All the seats in the 2015 elections were contested by the opposition and the older parties largely plan on contesting in the same wards.

As one of the newest political parties, the PSP can stake a claim on the new wards that have arisen following the report of the Electoral Boundaries Review Committee, barter for an existing ward with another opposition party or enter into a multi-cornered fight.

Mr Jeyaretnam, the son of the late JB Jeyaretnam, who was the first opposition politician since independence in 1965 to win a seat in Parliament, said his party intends to return to West Coast GRC, in addition to Ang Mo Kio GRC, and the Radin Mas and Yio Chu Kang SMCs.

Three of the six RP candidates announced on Monday — party chairman Andy Zhu and members Darren Soh and Noraini Yunus — have contested elections in the past. Mr Zhu, 37, is a marketing director at a real estate firm, while Mr Soh and Madam Noraini, both 52, are in human resources and telemarketing respectively.

The remaining three candidates — party deputy treasurer Mahaboob Batcha and members Gurdev Singh and Charles Yeo — are fresh faces. Mr Batcha, 52, is the director of an oil and gas company, while Mr Singh, 55, is an assistant property manager. Criminal defence lawyer Charles Yeo is the RP’s youngest candidate so far, at 30 years old.

Mr Jeyaretnam added on Monday that his party has been cooperating with fellow opposition groups and hopes to avoid three-cornered fights.

The PSP, meanwhile, is preparing to unveil its own team to contest the ward. The party’s Assistant Secretary-General Leong Mun Wai said on Saturday (June 13) that it is keen to run at West Coast, even though it has decided to scale down on the number of wards it will contest in the coming polls.

In March, the PSP announced that it will contest a hefty 44 seats in the West Coast, Bishan-Toa Payoh, Chua Chu Kang, Tanjong Pagar, Sembawang, Jalan Besar, Nee Soon and Jurong GRCs and in the Radin Mas, Marymount, Yuhua, Pioneer, Kebun Baru, Hong Kah North and Yio Chu Kang SMCs.

The PSP will now contest 29 seats, according to Mr Leong. While it has given up some of the constituencies it planned to contest, the party seems unwilling to yield West Coast GRC and is gearing up to announce its final slate of candidates for the ward.

Dr Tan has been confirmed to lead the PSP team in West Coast GRC and it will include the party Vice-Chairman Hazel Poa and members Jeffrey Khoo and Nadarajah Loganathan. Either Mr Leong or member Abas Kasmani are expected to round out the PSP team for the five-member ward.

With both RP and PSP moving full-steam ahead with their plans to field candidates in  West Coast GRC, a three-cornered fight seems unavoidable. Such a fight is controversial because it could dilute the vote for the opposition. /TISG

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