Singapore GE2020: Are PM Lee And Tan Cheng Bock Fighting for One Last Hurrah?

PM Lee is seeking re-election from Ang Mo Kio GRC while Dr Tan Cheng Bock, who is making a comeback to the parliamentary election after 19 years, will contest from West Coast

The Singapore General Election 2020 will have two popular faces — incumbent Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong and former member of parliament Dr Tan Cheng Bock. Lee will fight from the Ang Mo Kio GRC for People's Action Party while Tan, who is making a comeback, will contest for Progress Singapore Party (PSP) from the West Coast GRC.

While it would have been interesting if they had faced off, both will have their respective targets in the GE2020. If Lee is seeking re-election for a fresh mandate to finish his political career on a high, reviving Singapore's economy from the Coronavirus pandemic, Tan, a former MP of PAP, through his new political party, wants to challenge his former party's policies.

Last Hurrah for PM Lee?

Even though it is not confirmed that it will be his last election, it is perceived that Lee will pass on the mantle to Deputy PM Heng Swee Keat during his fourth term as the PM. If that's the case, Lee would like to complete his tasks at the PMO and bow out leaving a legacy like his father, Lee Kuan Yew, Singapore's first PM.

PM Lee
Singapore's PM Lee Hsien Loong (left) is seeking fresh mandate to continue country's economic recovery from COVID-19 pandemic Facebook/ Lee Hsien Loong

For Ang Mo Kio, which has been reduced to five-MP GRC, PAP has fielded incumbent MPs Darryl David and Gan Thiam Poh and two new faces — Ng Ling Ling and Nadia Samdin besides Lee. They will take on the challenge of Reform Party whose team includes Kenneth Jeyaretnam, Andy Zhu, Noraini Yunus, Charles Yeo and Darren Soh.

In 2015 GE, Lee and his team didn't have to break a sweat, winning with 78.63 percent mandate against the same opponents. Despite that, PAP expects a tough fight. "We know that this is not the happiest of times. People are feeling the pain and the uncertainty, because of the crisis, some acutely. The opposition is making the most of that. They're well-organised and prepared, and will not roll over, or go away," said Lee following his nomination on June 30.

He also added that his government wants to protect jobs for workers and keep a stable economy which is expected to shrink by 4-7 percent in the coming months as a fallout of COVID-19 pandemic.

Can Tan Become A Comeback King?

It may seem that Tan is fighting a losing battle as his party is only contesting in 24 out of 93 seats while PAP has candidates in all of them. Even if they manage to win all 24 seats, it will not be enough. But that's not his target. He wants to make a comeback to the parliamentary elections after almost 19 years because the current government lacks transparency and accountability.

In the election manifesto, his party has made 'Singapore first' their motto placing a quota on jobs and making freedom of speech and expression a priority which Tan said was curtailed by POFMA (Protection from Online Falsehoods and Manipulation Act) — city-state's anti-fake news law.

"I am back because I feel things are not going on correctly - there's a lack of accountability, a lack of transparency and a lack of independence in the appointment of senior people in the Government," Tan said after his candidacy was confirmed on the Nomination Day, June 30.

He will lead the team of five-member PSP team which comprises Hazel Poa, Jeffrey Khoo, Leong Mun Wai and Nadarajah Loganathan. Against PSP, PAP has fielded incumbent Minister of Communications Information, S. Iswaran, Minister for Social and Family Development, Desmond Lee Ti-Seng, MPs Foo Mee Har and Ang Wei Neng besides newcomer Rachel Ong Sin Yen.

Tan Cheng Bock
Tan Cheng Bock Facebook/ Tan Cheng Bock

However, even at 80, Tan continues to attract the attention of many people. The last time he contested in the General Election — in 2001 from Ayer Rajah — he set a record by winning with 88 percent of the mandate, albeit, with PAP. This time, Ayer Rajah is part from the West Coast and people still find him approachable. He lost the 2011 Presidential Election by a mere 0.35 percent to Tony Tan.

Even if his party loses, with the kind of support he enjoys in West Coast, Tan could still make it to the parliament through Non-Constituency MP scheme which now allows 12 best losers an entry to the parliament. The number of NCMPs was nine in 2015 GE. It was introduced in 1984 to have a presence of opposition as PAP has won every single election since its independence in 1965.

While PAP has assembled its heavyweights to counter Tan's challenge, Iswaran refused to weigh in on PSP's threat. "We are making the case that collectively, with the backing of our party, we are the best team and for their children and future, and we want to persuade them that they should put their trust in us. Then I think we have to let the voters decide. It is not for us to rate one another or to rate ourselves," he told the media after confirming his nomination.

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