In 2011, Low Thia Khiang was faced with a dilemma: stay in Hougang? Or risk losing Hougang and move out to Aljunied to try for something bigger?
Chiam See Tong took a similar risk, and lost it all.
But both Low and Chiam didn’t have a choice to stay in their constituencies – they had to go. Why?
Yes, the opposition leader would have enjoyed retaining Hougang easily… however Hougang was but a Single Member Constituency (SMC). If Aljunied had been won by Sylvia Lim and gang, then she would have controlled a Group Representation Constituency (GRC). Winning a GRC would give the members more political clout and Low couldn’t afford that.
The Worker’s Party has not yet had its leadership tested for power struggles and this was one battle the man would not want to see in his lifetime. Not when the newer members are seen to be more qualified for the position of Secretary General than he is.
So where will Loh go this time?
Move to East Coast GRC?
The move to East Coast is highly anticipated. The Party’s battlecry for the past few years had been “Qiang Gong Dong Hai An” (a Chinese word play on Low Thia Khiang attacking East Coast/Strongly attacking East Coast).
He will want to demonstrate the party’s fighting spirit – to grab the next weakest GRC and extend their power. However, this would mean moving out of Aljunied personally and taking the charm of his personality out of it.
The move comes with risks.
In 2011, East Coast GRC was home to Singapore’s Transport Minister. And transport ministers are never loved. Moreover the incoming anchorman of East Coast was Lim Swee Say – a man whom had the task of taking over the reins from Professor Jayakumar whom has held the East Coast seat for some 30 years. Things are different now – there is now no more transport minister in the GRC and Lim Swee Say has spent much time working the grounds.
If Low doesn’t come to East Coast however, I think he would be disappointing many of his fans.
Move to Tampines GRC?
If this was 2011, Tampines would be a lucrative win for any party. It was the home ground of MND Minister Mah Bow Tan. If you recall, Mr. Mah was the public enemy for making HDB prices higher. But things will be different in the next elections. Mah is no longer Cabinet minister and Tampines MPs have shown to have strong support from their residents.
But still, taking Tampines would be a big morale boost for the Worker’s Party.
It’s a risky bet – would Low come to Tampines? Probably not.
He will however, place a candidate here whom Loh might find “troublesome”. Let me explain: Now, we all know that Low himself is not of Prime Minister material and that the time of a Worker’s Party government is not yet. If so, how would he deal with characters in his party that threaten to overshadow and maybe even usurp his position as Secretary General?
Tampines would be a good place to put such candidates – strong characters. Characters whom he may not want to be in the political scene just yet.
So Low may not be coming to Tampines, but he would place a strong (yet disposable) candidate here. By coming here himself, he could risk losing both Aljunied and East Coast.
Stay in Aljunied
Would the man stay in Aljunied? Well, he can’t. As the travelling salesman for the Worker’s Party, people still vote the person behind the logo – if he was to stay in Aljunied he would be doing his party a big disfavour and be seen as weak or afraid to leave the security of Fortress Aljunied to come out to fight.