Straits Times: Hougang voters wanted me, and upgrading: Low


They handed him a victory, but at a smaller margin because they want to see their flats upgraded as the PM promised, says WP chief


MANY voters in Hougang wanted to have the “best of both worlds”.

They wanted to have Workers’ Party (WP) chief Low Thia Khiang as their MP and enjoy upgrading at the same time.

That is why they trimmed his winning margin from 58 to 55 per cent, Mr Low told reporters yesterday after his victory parade in Hougang.

On Saturday, he was re-elected as MP for the ward for the third time, beating Mr Eric Low of the People’s Action Party.

Before Polling Day, the Prime Minister had asked voters to cut overall support for the WP in Hougang from 58 to 52 per cent.

Mr Goh Chok Tong had said that if 45 per cent of the voters in any Hougang precinct voted for the PAP, he would consider that precinct for upgrading.

“The ball is in the PM’s court now. The voters in Hougang have responded to his request. Is he going to keep his promise?” asked the WP secretary-general.

He said that he did not know if bookies taking bets on the outcome of the polls had helped to swing votes against him.

But he made it plain that the polling results would not hurt the WP’s efforts to recruit younger Singaporeans who believe an opposition must be part of Singapore’s political landscape.

The issue of whether Singaporeans want an opposition was not settled conclusively in this election because there had been other factors at play, he argued.

The economic downturn, for example, had made people more uncertain about voting for opposition candidates, he said.

And before the polls, he noted, his party had been bogged down by defamation suits against its former chief, Mr J.B. Jeyaretnam, and had not been able to begin working the ground as early as it should have.

During the hustings, the PAP tried to tie him down in Hougang and reduce the time he could spend helping Dr Poh Lee-Guan, the WP assistant secretary-general, who was defeated by Associate Professor Ho Peng Kee in Nee Soon East.

But he said that the voters in Hougang knew he did his best to serve them and was not the type to carry out a last-minute door-to-door campaign “to beg for votes” during an election.

“I don’t do that,” Mr Low said, adding: “I do my regular things and leave it to the people to decide in an election.”

Mr Low said Dr Poh, who got 26 per cent of the valid votes, was new to politics and had had only nine days to campaign.

But the latter had to face the firepower of all the PAP’s big guns, including Senior Minister Lee Kuan Yew, he said, adding: “Why is there a need for all the big guns, including SM, to… go down to the ground?”

Dr Poh, who accompanied Mr Low on his victory parade yesterday, said he was happy with the result in the new single-seat ward of Nee Soon East, where his party had performed “pretty well” despite the challenges it had faced.

Asked whether he was prepared to stand with Mr Low in a group representation constituency in the next election, he replied: “We really have to ask the question again: What do the people of Singapore want?”

“We will see what we can do, add value to and contribute. The rules of engagement will remain the same. We will be responsible and constructive.”

Streats: No media ban, but…

GE 2001

SINCE Nomination Day, the Workers’ Party has shunned media attention.

No press conferences. No alerts about walkabouts. Only “no comment” when WP candidates are approached at rallies.

Is there a blanket ban on the media?

“Not that we know of,” said council member James Gomez at a party rally last night at Nee Soon East.

“We have not talked to the media because we have nothing to say to them.

“The media has been trying to fish for information. And when they can’t get a reply, they are quick to show their frustrations.” Mr Gomez also attacked the standard of journalism in Singapore.

“The quality of analysis of so-called senior journalists, reporters and correspondents remains to be seen.”- Adam Hashidy