The ruling People's Action Party, which has kept the potential constituency of Deputy Prime Minister Heng Swee Keat a closely guarded secret, revealed it finally on the last Nomination Day, Tuesday, June 30. An incumbent of Tampines GRC, Keat will move to East Coast becoming the anchor minister.
He will lead a five-member PAP team that includes Senior Minister of State Maliki Osman, Cheryl Chan and Jessica Tan. The only first-timer in the team is Tan Kiat How, the former executive of the Infocomm Media Development Authority. In the last GE, PAP had Lim Swee Say, Lee Yi Shyan besides Osman and Tan.
East Coast, which was changed to four-MP GRC in 2015 General Election, reverted to five-MP after Fengshan SMC was added back to it for the GE2020 which will take place on July 10.
No More A Close Contest?
PAP's opponent in the GRC will be Workers' Party which will comprise of Dylan Ng, Kenneth Foo, Nicole Seah, Terence Tan and Abdul Shariff Aboo Kassim. The WP team is completely different from that of 2015 which had former non-constituency member of parliament, Gerald Giam besides Daniel Goh, Leon Perera and Mohamed Fairoz Shariff. Both Giam and Perera have now moved to the Aljunied GRC this time.
However, WP has performed strongly in the East Coast in the last three elections, garnering 39.3 percent of votes in 2015. Its best performing year was in 2011 when it lost a close fight to PAP with 45.2 percent of votes. But on both occasions, Say and Shyan delivered PAP a favorable result. But after Say stepped down in 2018 and Shyan recently, it was clear that PAP needed a star in East Coast to fend off any fight from WP.
"Our team looks forward to working together with our residents, to get through this crisis safely, to continue to build the East Coast spirit of care and support for one another, and to emerge stronger. We will build on the good work by Swee Say, Yi Shyan, and the team. There is so much to learn, and I will work hard to learn it," said Keat.
For WP, it will be another opportunity but without its familiar faces, a close contest looks unlikely. Instead, a new team will try to stake its claim with a new party member Seah, who has run into controversies in Singapore's electoral history.
Seah, who has been with three different parties in the last 10 years and has contested in two GEs, has switched her allegiance again to WP this time. But she believes there is a good chance this time as WP has been "working very hard on the ground" in the last five years. She added, "We will stand firm, we will remain courageous, and we will always offer all of you a vote for fairness and balance."
New Beginning for Keat
Leaving Tampines was no mean feat for Keat. In Tampines, he is a popular figure and has a close relationship with people of the area for over a decade. Even in 2011 when anti-incumbency was strong, Keat managed to win the constituency with 57.22 percent of votes. In the last GE, a 72.06 percent vote suggested that he was the face of Tampines.
But now, Keat isn't just a PAP member or a cabinet minister anymore. He is PAP's next face, who has been touted to take over the Prime Minister position when incumbent Lee Hsien Loong decides to retire. PM Lee, who is already 68, will be in his fourth term if re-elected. And the decision to pass Keat the mantle was clear when he was promoted to Deputy Prime Minister's position last year.
DPM Keat felt that in the absence of Say and Shyan, the party could not afford a gap in the East Coast in the uncertain times due to Coronavirus pandemic. Thus, after a discussion with PM Lee, he decided to leave his Tampines GRC, where he is a popular figure and moved to the East Coast.
"If I move, I can do my part in the East Coast. We cannot afford a gap in East Coast in these uncertain times. We need a full team that can take care of the residents and position them to come out of this crisis stronger than before. I told PM I will move to East Coast," said Keat.
Tampines in Good Hands
Keat, however, believes that his beloved Tampines will be in good hands as PAP vice-chairman Masagos Zulkifli and the rest of the incumbent MPs — Desmond Choo, Baey Yam Keng, Cheng Li Hui — will be joined by Senior Minister of State and Ministry of Trade and Industry Koh Poh Koon, who will move from Ang Mo Kio GRC.
"The MPs have been working well together, and with the residents. If I move, Tampines residents will still be well taken care of. I have every confidence that Masagos Zulkifli and the rest of the team can lead Tampines to new heights," said Keat.
Here's the full list of candidates: