There were rumblings before the nomination day that Low Thia Khiang may vacate his fortified stronghold – Hougang, and join battle with his elite team in Aljunied GRC. This caused a flurry of speculations and discussions with many guessing that he would decide against it in the final hour as the risk is too high. If he stayed at his stronghold, Worker’s Party (WP) is guaranteed a voice in the parliament. But Low Thia Khiang surprised and shocked everyone with his announcement on nomination day that he’ll be joining his elite team of Sylvia Lim, Chen Show Mao, Pritam Singh and Faisal Abdul Manap in Aljunied. His announcement was akin to a call-to-arms that galvanised the supporters into action which was evident in the huge attendance in their rallies.
And then when you know that he has left his fortress to be defended by his protégé Yaw Shin Leong and you’ll begin to realise why WP enjoys such longevity and success. Low Thia Khiang had already prepared political leadership renewal in his party. When you think about it, Yaw Shin Leong is such an obvious choice as he is also a familiar face with Hougang residents.
In the previous election (GE2006), Aljunied GRC was PAP’s worst performing GRC at 56% and that was after the “Gomez Gate” that possibly had negatively affected WP’s showing. To make a final and strong push to convert 6.1% to be in WP’s favour, a bold gambit is required and that came in the form of Low Thia Khiang going from the defense to the attack.
His elite team had very strong members like Sylvia Lim (household name), “secret weapon” Chen Show Mao and “the orator” Pritam Singh.
WP’s Pritam Singh at Aljunied GRC rally, May 5
Singapore Pledge at Workers Party Rally @ Serangoon Stadium on 5 May 2011
It was also revealed in Sylvia Lim’s interview that she had been pounding the grounds of Aljunied every fortnightly in the past 8 years. The preparations were long in planning.
In all war, the battlefield is never static but changing conditions. The tide of advantage may sway any way. Finally, 万事俱备, 只欠东风 (Translation: Everything in place, just lacking of the Eastern wind).
And when it rained, it poured!
- The first gust of Eastern wind came in the form of Tin Pei Ling. The introduction of Tin Pei Ling, a 27 year old and inexperienced candidate shielded behind the wall of GRC system, attracted the ire of the online community.
- The gust of Eastern wind just grew stronger when Eric Low of PAP’s Hougang candidate commented that it has become a ‘slum’. Doesn’t he know that he shouldn’t insult his voters when he is trying to win their votes? The Hougang voters eventually rebutted his comment by voting strongly for Yaw Shin Leong and giving WP the best showing ever in Hougang with a vote of 64.81%!
- The newspaper report of an incident involving Cynthia Phua with residents of Aljunied in 2009 surfaced again. Also, reported on 8 May in The Sunday Times, she also admitted that her sometimes brusque and abrupt demeanor which grassroots volunteers had feedback, may rub the residents the wrong way.
- Lim Hwee Hua’s feeble attempt at casting doubt on Worker’s Party of managing a town council. In an atmosphere where the voters no longer accept tactics with the slightest hint of smearing and FUD (fear, uncertainty and doubt). Unfortunately, regardless of her intention, her comments cannot be more ill-timed during the campaign.
- The biggest bombshell dropped was when MM Lee (with all due respect) said, “If Aljunied decides to go that way (WP), well Aljunied has five years to live and repent.” MM Lee had always been known to make strong remarks and robust statements. It worked very well during Singapore’s tumultuous years and my parents’ generation, but such statements no longer sit well at all with the current Internet connected world. The statement created much unhappiness and resentment among the voters, it further swung the voters leaning towards Worker’s Party.
We must also give credit to Worker’s Party fearless leader, Low Thia Khiang. Their campaign was a well-planned and executed onslaught. This can be evident from their choice of rally points during the campaign. It started with Hougang, where Low Thia Khiang needed to explain to his Hougang supporters his decision to vacate his stronghold. He also rallied his voters to continue to support his ‘son’, Yaw Shin Leong. In 8 days of rally, 4 were spent on Aljunied GRC and the party ended the final 2 days of the rally in Aljunied GRC. This was all deliberate and no details were left to chance.
The fate of George Yeo’s led Aljunied GRC team was already written in the stars. The Worker’s Party was also hardwork was handsomely rewarded with a convincing 54.71% win and the future parliaments, they will be represented by 6 MP and 2 NCMP.
Any party, if they want to achieve similar success, they need to take a page out of Low Thia Khiang’s playbook. It involves years of planning and staging. The battle starts now.
What’s next? PAP’s East Coast GRC team fared only 54.83% against WP team in this general election. This is the next exposed weak spot in the PAP territory. Will we see another Low Thia Khiang led charge in GE 2016? Only time will tell.
Tinie Tempah – Written In The Stars ft. Eric Turner