Workers’ Party leadership renewal: Signs of trouble brewing in the house

Workers’ Party (WP) held their last Central Executive Committee (CEC) election on May 29 in 2016 where 61-year-old Low Thia Khiang was re-elected as the party’s secretary-general.

Low’s position as secretary-general was uncontested for 17 years until Aljunied GRC MP Chen Show Mao decided to challenge him for the top post in 2016.

Credits: TODAY Online

Chen almost won the election, trailing behind veteran Low by a shortfall of 16 votes. Chen swept up 45 votes while Low attained 61 votes.

In November last year, Low announced that he will be relinquishing his role to pave way for new blood.

He claimed that he has set out as leader to do two things – first to progress electorally and second, to bring about the renewal of WP.

But his abrupt decision to give up his position amidst the ongoing Aljunied-Hougang town council fiasco has raised eyebrows.

Every party leader hopes for a smooth transition in leadership renewal but it looks like Low had “no choice” but to step down.

Credits: The Straits Times

Low’s position in the party is no longer as secure as before and he might be made bankrupt if they lose the ongoing court case and cannot repay AHTC $33 million.

The CEC election takes place once every two years so it’s slated to happen this year.

However, it will be brought forward – on April 8 – in time for WP to have a new leader when Parliament reopens in May.

Here’s a quick look at the potential contenders as WP’s new secretary-general:

  • Sylvia Lim Swee Lian, Chairman, Aljunied GRC MP
  • Chen Show Mao, Council Member, Aljunied GRC MP
  • Pritam Singh, Assistant Secretary General, Aljunied GRC MP
  • Daniel Goh Pei Siong, Chair, Media Team, NCMP
  • Muhamad Faisal bin Abdul Manap, Vice Chairman, Aljunied GRC MP
  • Png Eng Huat, Organising Secretary, Hougang SMC MP
  • Dennis Tan Lip Fong, Treasurer, Non-Constituency MP
  • Leon Perera, Deputy Chair, Media Team and Webmaster, NCMP

Sylvia Lim who is also embroiled in the WP’s AHTC saga, has rejected the party chief position and made known her intentions to run for her current role as WP Chairman.

Chen declined to comment on whether he would stand for election but it’s likely that he might contest since he knows he stands a chance from the results of the last election.

Credits: Mediacorp

Pritam is very likely to contest for the hot seat since he has been assisting Low as assistant secretary-general.

He told the media that the cadres have to decide who they want to lead them as the next secretary-general. In other words, he did not deny nor confirm that he would be running.

Low has dismissed rumours that he has a say in deciding who his successor will be but party insiders revealed that Pritam is the clear choice of Low.

Both of them seem pretty aligned with each other. If Pritam wins the election, Low might remain in the party and mentor him for a few more rounds of election. Low is still young and can afford a few more years in politics.

If Daniel Goh also throws his name in the ring, it will turn into a three-corner fight and that will further dilute the votes from Low’s camps (Pritam and Goh). This would result in lesser votes for Pritam, causing Chen to have majority of the votes for the party chief position.

In short, a three-corner fight would not be in favour of Low.

Credits: The Straits Times

Though Goh been helping Low at Meet-the-People Sessions, he knows that he is still green and his personal popularity is not as solid as Singh’s.

He has openly backed Pritam on Facebook and indicated that he has a lot more to learn, implying that he is not ready to contest for the hot seat.

Rumours has it that it’s a strategic move from Goh as he must “buy time to gain critical support from within the party”  and “he will remain favourite if he knows his turn in a party”.

Hougang MP Png Eng Huat and Aljunied GRC MP Muhamad Faisal could not be contacted by the media.

WP CEC members Dennis Tan and Leon Perera said they will support Pritam if he runs for the top post.

So that leaves us with Chen, Pritam and Goh (if he changes his mind about running).

Will Chen eventually put himself up for another round of fight and contest against Pritam for the top post?

Well, if he does, it might be a tough fight between both of them.

An unnamed veteran party member revealed that majority of older members still prefer Chen because he is “his own man and has independent ideas” while Pritam is perceived as being too closely aligned to Mr Low.

Credits: The Online Citizen

With the ongoing $33 million legal suit against AHTC’s own town councillors – Lim, Low and Pritam, as well as the leadership renewal taking place in due time, it looks like it’s messy times ahead for the party.

WP, being the most prominent opposition party, should have a democratic and transparent election process, and allow their party cadres to vote for their favourite choice of secretary-general. 

Chen, Pritam and Goh (if possible) should have a fair chance in contesting for the hot seat and not have Pritam being appointed as the next secretary-general of WP.

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