SINGAPORE: A bumper crop of recruits from the private sector form the bulk of the People’s Action Party’s (PAP) new candidates this General Election (GE).
With the PAP’s introduction on Friday (Aug 28) of its final slate of candidates – its team for the Aljunied Group Representation Constituency (GRC) - and barring any last-minute changes before Nomination Day, the ruling party will be fielding 22 candidates who will be contesting a GE for the first time.
Of these, 14 are from the private sector and two are from non-governmental organisations (NGOs). This means that about two-thirds of the candidates are from outside the public sector.
This is a stark difference from 2011, when the party’s slate of 24 first-time candidates was dominated by 16 people from the public sector – including 5 from the labour movement - and only 8 from the private sector. Leaders from statutory boards and the armed forces had featured prominently.
The latest numbers seem to indicate that the party has bucked the trend in past GEs of relying on the public sector pool for its political recruits – a trend that has had some raising the possibility of “groupthink” in Government. When this was discussed recently, Deputy Prime Minister Teo Chee Hean noted that in this GE, the PAP had found “a good slate” from the private sector.
“We want a person who can understand and bring the knowledge into Parliament, and possibly Cabinet, to bring a new dimension to our discussions. But we also have MPs active in the social sector which brings a new dimension too," Mr Teo said on Aug 22.
The private-sector recruits include lawyers, doctors in private practice and bankers. The candidates from NGOs are Louis Ng, founder of the Animal Concerns Research and Education Society or ACRES; and Ms Joan Pereira, the assistant general manager of Temasek Cares.
17 MEN, 5 WOMEN
The 22 fresh candidates include Dr Koh Poh Koon, who was fielded in the Punggol East by-election in 2013 but is facing his first GE. Not included are Mr Ong Ye Kung and Mr Desmond Choo, who ran but lost in the 2011 GE.
Male faces are heavily in the majority – 17 men to only 5 women – possibly a reflection of the perennial difficulty the party has had attracting women into politics.
On Friday, it was revealed that Serangoon branch chairman Chan Mui Yuh, 38, one of the early potential candidates in Aljunied, had asked not to contest because she wanted more time for her young children.
In the 2011 GE, just five out of the PAP’s 24 new candidates were women. And currently, female elected Members of Parliament are outnumbered nearly four-to-one by male parliamentarians.
AVERAGE AGE, 42.2 YEARS
About a third of the new slate is under the age of 40. Of these seven candidates, the youngest is Ms Rahay Mahzam, 35, a law firm partner who is being fielded in Jurong GRC.
Another 10 candidates are in their early 40s, and Mr Victor Lye, a candidate in Aljunied GRC, is the oldest at 52. Overall, the average age of the new slate is slightly older than the PAP’s 2011 team of first-time candidates – 42.2 years, compared to 39.8 years.
The fresh faces comprise 15 Chinese and seven minority candidates - Indian, Malay and Eurasian candidates.
A number of the first-time candidates have been reaching out to residents and doing grassroots work for years ahead of the polls. In the past, the party has been criticised for “parachuting” potential candidates into branches at the last minute.
Fengshan Single Member Constituency (SMC) candidate Cheryl Chan, for instance, has been involved in the district’s grassroots work for 10 years; Aljunied GRC candidate Victor Lye began volunteering in the area in 1999; and Sembawang GRC candidate Amrin Amin has been active in grassroots work since 2004, starting in Chong Pang.
In a media interview in July, party organising secretary Dr Ng Eng Hen said that about a third of the fresh faces could eventually become office-holders.