By Zakir Hussain
WORKERS' Party (WP) chairman Sylvia Lim fleetingly considered contesting a single-seat ward at the upcoming general election, but has all but ruled it out because she has invested the past eight years working the ground in Aljunied GRC.
[Mixed reaction to this. On the one hand I think with her increased exposure and credible performance, I think she is electable. But I am not sure about how the voters in an SMC might feel about her. So I take it that she has assessed her chances carefully, and decided to go with a GRC.]
Four of the party's top candidates were spotted on house visits in Kaki Bukit with Ms Lim.
They were: Leading corporate lawyer Chen Show Mao, 50; WP organising secretary Yaw Shin Leong, 34; social worker Muhammad Faisal Abdul Manap, 35; and postgraduate law student Pritam Singh, 34.
None of the quartet was part of the WP team, led by Ms Lim, which got 43.9 per cent of the vote in Aljunied at the 2006 General Election.
[I am not sure that Chen's credentials will translate into votes unless he convinces the voters that he is one of them and can represent their interests. No comments on the others but if they are grassroots-type, they could be formidable.]
The latest electoral boundaries, released on Feb 24, shifted 20,000 voters from Marine Parade GRC's Kaki Bukit ward to Aljunied... Kaki Bukit, which consists of more than 50 blocks in Bedok North Street 3, was part of Eunos GRC in the 1988 and 1991 elections, where WP teams came close to winning, with 49.1 and 47.6 per cent of the votes respectively...
It has a larger concentration of Malay and Indian residents than the national average, and more residents living in three-room or smaller flats.
Looking breathless from walking down dozens of flights of stairs, Ms Lim noted that a survey of voters after the previous election found that Malay and Indian voters value personal contact with candidates more.
[So that's why they have a Malay and an Indian candidate. Good strategy. Maybe. ]
...The WP, she said, plans to campaign broadly and focus on such national issues as the rising cost of living, housing and transport.
[The problem with national issues is that unless you win the election and is returned to power, they is little you can really do about the issues. You can raise it and talk about it. And maybe by doing so, you can nudge the ruling party into doing something about it. But can you win elections based on national issues? Maybe inflation. Maybe local transport.]
As for the WP manifesto's call for voters to help bring about a First World Parliament, Ms Lim said it is important for the opposition to get at least one-third of the seats to prevent the Government from amending the Constitution for partisan advantage.
She believes it has done so in the past, through introducing GRCs and enlarging them, and entrenching Non-Constituency MPs to tell voters they will have a safety valve.
But she acknowledged that being an NCMP in the past five years has given her a higher public profile and more recognition.
[Good point about constitutional amendments, and fair that she acknowledge the advantage of the NCMP scheme.]
As for whether being an NCMP has made her more electable this time round, she said she could not answer, but added: 'That is up to voters to decide. But it has given me some profile, there is more recognition.'
Asked how she would grade her performance in Parliament since 2006, Ms Lim said: 'I leave it to others to judge my stint as NCMP.'
This contrasts with some suggestions that the WP has not done enough to raise the level of debate in the House - a point which she was quick to rebut.
Additional reporting by Chong Zi Liang
[I think they have carried themselve creditably. I hope they do well, but I don't think the PAP deserves to lose Aljunied.