At the 11th hour as vote counting was underway, Secretary General of the Worker’s Party was visibly distressed. On national television he sprouted a forced, weak smile, as the prospect of losing the Aljunied seats became very real.
It wasn’t the loss of Aljunied that he was concerned about.
Back in Hougang, his party comrade Png Eng Huat had already declared a 57.96% win, and was en-route to Parliament. At this point, Low knew the consequences were large: would he have to step down as Party chief? Would Png Eng Huat then become the leader of the opposition?
Moments later, Low had won Aljunied. But he continues to face a migraine of problems. He knew that:
a.) He has achieved lower votes than his comrade in Hougang
b.) At the helm of the GRC, he almost lost the campaign by a hair’s breath to an unknown, PAP S-Team.
c.) There is widespread belief that he cannot take the Party beyond just being “a voice in Parliament”. In other words, many believe he cannot play the role of a Prime Minister should his party form Government.
In the next elections, he’s going to be put between a rock and a hard place. If he retreats back to Hougang, he’s going to be disappointing many of his fans with a show of weakness and fear.
But can he stay in in Aljunied? The electorate has shown that they’ve got no qualms about voting WP’s A-Team out.
There is also the unfinished business of the Worker’s Party controlled town council – the AHPETC. The leadership maintains that Singaporeans are not bothered nor are they swung by the issues lobbed at them by PAP. It is not so simple.
True – perhaps the issues are now too complex for an average person to understand. Perhaps the issue hasn’t turned criminal enough for anyone to be prosecuted. But WP’s leadership will ignore AHPTEC at their own peril…and chances are they haven’t heard the last of it yet.
And the most troublesome for Low, is perhaps best described in a Facebook comment by Monica Lim:
“For many silently watching by the side, WP did nothing, at least nothing that could be chalked up as significant in Parliament. In GE11, people voted WP because they felt PAP was getting too big for their britches. In GE15, many people felt that WP had taken over those britches. A vote is a pledge of trust, not a prize. When people feel that you don’t measure up to what is entrusted to you, they take it away the next time.”
So what will it be? Can he continue to command the confidence of his party comrades?
The position of Secretary General in a political party is no small position. This person must lead, set the leadership, direct the party and eventually direct the Republic of Singapore to achieve great heights in the world.
Today, the Worker’s Party is the dominant opposition force in Parliament and their Secretary General’s importance is on par with that of Lee Hsien Loong.
In that seat today, is Low Thia Khiang.
Can he continue to steer his party and the electorate with full confidence for the next 5 years?