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'Good balance' of old and new faces in new Workers' Party CEC, say analysts

'Good balance' of old and new faces in new Workers' Party CEC, say analysts

(from left) Workers' Party CEC members Mr Louis Chua, chair Sylvia Lim, secretary-general Pritam Singh and Nicole Seah give a doorstop after the WP Cadre Members' Conference on Dec 27, 2020. (Photo: Chew Hui Min)

SINGAPORE: The new Workers' Party (WP) Central Executive Committee (CEC) has a "good balance" of old and new faces, and threw up few surprises, analysts told CNA.

On Sunday (Dec 27), the opposition party's cadre members elected five new faces to its top leadership while retaining Ms Sylvia Lim as chair and Mr Pritam Singh as secretary-general.

The four Sengkang GRC Members of Parliament, who won the Group Representation Constituency in the July General Election, were all voted into the CEC. They are Ms He Tingru, 37, Mr Louis Chua, 33, Dr Jamus Lim, 44, and Ms Raeesah Khan, 27.

Ms Nicole Seah, 34, is the fifth new face. Her East Coast GRC running mate Mr Kenneth Foo, 43, was also re-elected, after having served in the CEC from 2016 to 2018.

READ: Workers' Party MPs He Ting Ru, Jamus Lim, Raeesah Khan and Louis Chua elected to Central Executive Committee

While three of the Sengkang MPs are relatively new, having run and won in their first electoral outing this year, political observers said that their inclusion in the CEC was expected.

"The 'Sengkang Four' being elected to the CEC is not too much of a surprise. Having earned the mandate of the voters, the party cadres would need a compelling reason to deny them being on the CEC," said Associate Professor Eugene Tan, from the Singapore Management University's (SMU) School of Law.

Nanyang Technological University's Assistant Professor Walid Jumblatt Abdullah said it was a "sensible" move that would quell potential tension in the party that could arise if elected MPs were not also senior party leaders.

"The WP has had infighting before, with Chen Show Mao challenging Low Thia Khiang ... it does make sense to have all those with (MP) positions in the CEC and it is also looking to quell any form of internal tension and factionalism."

READ: Workers' Party leaders Pritam Singh, Sylvia Lim re-elected as party 'balances experience with new blood'

On Mr Foo's and Ms Seah's election, analysts said that the East Coast GRC team put up a good fight there despite losing to the heavyweights from the People's Action Party (PAP), which included Deputy Prime Minister Heng Swee Keat. The WP team has also continued to walk the ground there since the election.

"Ms Nicole Seah appears to have made a strong impression on the party despite being relatively new to WP. Her trajectory within the party leadership bears close watching," said Assoc Prof Tan.

"Mr Foo’s election suggests that he is highly regarded within the party and will feature in the WP’s plans going into the next General Election."

A WP member since 2006, Mr Foo contested in Nee Soon GRC in the 2015 General Election and was WP's deputy organising secretary from 2016 to 2018. Ms Seah, formerly of the National Solidarity Party, joined WP in 2015.

The Workers' Party candidate for East Coast GRC Kenneth Foo speaking to media after a walkabout at Bedok North Street 4 on Jul 1, 2020. (Photo: Gaya Chandramohan)
Nicole Seah of the Workers' Party speaks to media on Dec 27, 2020.

Asst Prof Walid added that the team the WP sends to East Coast has traditionally been its "Team B", second to its Aljunied GRC team, and it was expected that the team members would be in the CEC.

The Aljunied GRC MPs, Ms Lim, Mr Singh, Mr Faisal Manap, Mr Leon Perera and Mr Gerald Giam were all elected to the CEC, along with Hougang MP Dennis Tan. 

The other two committee members making up the 14 are former WP chief Low Thia Khiang, 64, and former MP Png Eng Huat, 59, who both did not run in the recent election.

The average age of the new CEC is about 45 years old, compared to about 49 years old in the 2018 committee. 

There is a "good balance" of new and old faces in the line-up, said Dr Felix Tan, associate lecturer at the Singapore Institute of Management Global Education.

“I think it’s high time that a younger team take over the helm," he said. "It’s about getting this crop of younger members to develop … and this sort of renewal needs to happen for the party to regenerate itself."

With nine members in their 20s to 40s, the team will have a longer runway to learn the ropes, analysts said.

"They're good to go for many, many more years to come ... They have a good 10, 15 years ahead of them," said Asst Prof Walid, adding that there should not be too many concerns about renewing the party now.

The Workers' Party's (WP) candidates for Aljunied GRC, Faisal Manap and Pritam Singh speaking to ex secretary-general, Low Thia Khiang before their walkabout at Hougang bus interchange on Jul 8, 2020. (Photo: Try Sutrisno Foo)

There is still continuity within the WP with senior members Mr Low, Mr Png and Ms Lim remaining in the committee, analysts said.

"Mr Low and Mr Png are the two oldest CEC members elected yesterday. For me, it is significant that they remain politically active and can be counted on to play a part in the party's plans in the next General Election. 

"They have not retired from politics and so the possibility of them being fielded in the next General Election remains a live one," said SMU's Assoc Prof Tan.

Source: CNA/hm


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