The People You Should Care About in Singapore’s Election
(Bloomberg) -- Singaporeans will cast their ballots on July 10 with the People’s Action Party seeking to continue its unbroken stint in power since independence in 1965. Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong is seeking a renewed mandate to govern amid the coronavirus pandemic that has pummeled the country’s economy.
While Singapore doesn’t allow opinion polls, most analysts expect the PAP to easily win again in a race that will see all 93 seats contested by at least two parties for just the second time. Still, any narrowing of its victory margin could reflect an erosion of confidence in its new generation of leaders who have largely been responsible for handling the virus response.
Here are four faces each to watch from the ruling party and opposition during this election:
From the People’s Action Party
1. Heng Swee Keat, deputy prime minister and finance minister, surprised observers when he said he would lead a team to fight the main opposition party in a constituency that’s new to him. Heng, 59, who delivered all four economic stimulus packages this year worth more than than S$90 billion ($65 billion), is tipped to be the next prime minister and will be looking for strong approval from the grassroots.
2. Chan Chun Sing, minister for trade and industry, is one of the key members of the next generation of leaders in the PAP government known as 4G or fourth generation. Known for his folksy style, Chan, 50, has voiced strong views on topics ranging from masks to panic food runs during the pandemic. He recently reiterated the country’s commitment to globalization and attracting talent.
3. Lawrence Wong, 47, has been at the forefront of articulating the country’s response to fighting the virus as co-chair of the main government taskforce. As minister for national development, he also oversees the closely-watched property sector that affects home owners and real estate developers.
4. Josephine Teo is one of three female ministers in the incumbent government, and was appointed manpower minister in 2018 -- the first woman to helm the portfolio. It has been a rocky journey for Teo since the coronavirus outbreak. Under her watch, the number of infections among low-wage foreign workers living in cramped dormitories surged, pushing the country’s tally past 44,000 cases. Teo, 51, has pledged to further raise standards in the workers’ living quarters.
From the Opposition
1. Pritam Singh, 43, of the main Workers’ Party opposition, will be leading the party for the first time during this election. With stalwart Low Thia Khiang retiring, Singh will seek to lead his team to hold on to an area they narrowly won in the last election in 2015. Singh has called for a thorough review of the government’s coronavirus response, and has warned of a wipeout of the opposition in this vote.
2. Tan Cheng Bock started out with the ruling PAP in 1980 and was its elected lawmaker for 26 years. In 2011, Tan re-entered politics when he contested the heated 2011 presidential election and narrowly lost. He started the opposition Singapore Progress Party last year, which has attracted PM Lee’s estranged brother as a member. The 80-year-old trained doctor is now returning to his old constituency, where he will battle two sitting ministers -- S. Iswaran, minister for communications and information, and Desmond Lee, minister for social and family development.
3. Paul Tambyah, the chairman of the socio-liberal Singapore Democratic Party, has been billed as one of the must-watch candidates. An infectious disease specialist, the 55-year-old was recently elected president of the International Society of Infectious Diseases, becoming the first Singaporean to hold the position. He’s only among a handful of candidates from the minority races -- both in the PAP and the opposition -- contesting in what’s called a single member constituency in the past decades.
4. Jamus Lim, 44, represents the Workers’ Party but has sterling academic credentials that could easily fit the ruling party’s profile. With academic qualifications from London School of Economics and Harvard University, the associate professor of economics impressed netizens in his first live debate with seasoned political heavyweights.
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