I guess everyone just can’t get enough of election news, information and gossips. You are either craving for more, or totally sick of it. Everyday, election speculations hog the headlines of newspapers. And in these past weeks, PAP has been quite active on the ground and in the build-up to GE. Just a short recap on the past month elections major headlines:
1 March 2006 – “Singapore PM Lee says budget not vote-buying scheme”
2 March 2006 – “Singapore Democrat Leader Charged With Contempt Of Court”
3 March 2006 – “Singapore releases electoral boundaries for next general elections”
6 March 2006 – “Opposition May Contest 52 Seats”
6 March 2006 – “Aljunied GRC MP Cynthia Phua asks PAP leadership about ward line-up”
10 March 2006 – “Opposition parties to contest 57 seats in Singapore's next general elections”
13 March 2006 – “PAP to field up to 20 new GE candidates: PM”
14 March 2006 – “Bankrupt Singapore opposition leader ordered to pay up”
15 March 2006 – “Presence of 'Uncle Yap' fuels talk of JBJ-Chee link”
20 March 2006 – “SM Goh tasked to help PAP retake opposition wards”
20 March 2006 – “Steve Chia raises stakes for himself - quit politics if he doesn't win this general election”
23 March 2006 – “PAP introduces first 3 new candidates for upcoming GE”
24 March 2006 – “PAP begins introducing 'new breed' of candidates”
25 March 2006 – “PAP to introduce second group of new candidates on Tuesday”
25 March 2006 – “An 'active supporter of self-renewal', MP Yatiman says he wants to call it a day”
26 March 2006 – “Two women high-fliers seen at ward events”
26 March 2006 – “Jaya to lead East Coast GRC team”
26 March 2006 – “Yeo Cheow Tong says he will step down if asked by PM Lee”
26 March 2006 – “Another possible new candidate for PAP seen at Tampines community event”
27 March 2006 – “Three new faces at PAP walkabouts in 2 places”
27 March 2006 – “Short of candidates? Not now, says NSP”
27 March 2006 – “Lim Hwee Hua moves to Aljunied GRC”
27 March 2006 – “SDA tests Tampines”
27 March 2006 – “Tony Tan to retire from politics – Khaw to take over Sembawang”
As usual, this blog (other than providing information) asks more questions than providing answers. Looking at the month of March, the news reports begins with the “sweeteners” from the Budget, then the introduction of new PAP candidates and most recently, the movements (retirement and reallocation) of Ministers and MPs. Perhaps any journalist reading this might be interested in taking up the following issues.
Which MPs are leaving?
Here is a mathematics question: There are 84 seats in parliament and PM Lee mentioned that they will introduce up to 20 new candidates for the coming GE. So far, only 3 MPs (Dr Tony Tan, Yatiman Yusof and Othman Haron Eusofe) have publicly announced that they will not be standing for the coming GE. Another 2 MPs (Dr Tan Cheng Bock and Dr Wang Kai Yuen) had their wards swallowed up by the GRCs are unlikely to stand. And so, my final question is which are the 15 MPs (minimum, but could be more than 15 MPs) who will step down? Of course, everyone has their own thoughts on the 15 and here is mine.
1) Lee Yock Suan
2) David Lim
3) Cedric Foo
4) Cynthia Phua
5) Tan Soo Khoon
6) Dr Ong Chit Chung
7) Dr John Chen
8) Chew Heng Ching
9) Assoc Prof Low Seow Chay
10) Yeo Guat Kwang
11) Chay Wai Chuen
12) Dr Ong Seh Hong
13) Andy Gan
14) R Ravindran
15) Leong Horn Kee
Notice that I’ve not mentioned any Minister stepping down. Reason is that usually, the PM will not drop the Minister before the elections unless he voluntarily steps down before elections. By dropping the Minister before elections, it might potential cause voting problems for the GRC (since Ministers usually heads the GRCs). After the GE is over, when the PM selects his list of Cabinet Ministers, we will know who is "in" and who is "out". If not, another Cabinet Reshuffling will take place around 1-2 years after the GE to have a renewal of Ministers. The telltale sign is when you have a strong number two anchor Minister in that same GRC. Example: Jurong GRC – Lim Boon Heng with Tharman Shanmugaratnam, Jalan Besar GRC – Dr Lee Boon Yang with Dr Yaacob Ibrahim. If a Minister “retires” there is a least another Minister to carry that GRC. But since they only retire as a Minister but not as a MP, there will not be any by-elections for that GRC. However, this is just a trend and observation. It is not conclusive.
Will we have enough Ministers?
Yes, there is no typo in that question. You might be wondering that Singapore has already more Ministers than we truly needs. Not true. Here is a list of possible Ministers retiring after the GE and reshuffling (again, it is just a prediction, not a conclusion):
1) Dr Lee Boon Yang – Minister for Information, Communication and the Arts
2) Lim Boon Heng – Minister for Prime Minister’s Office
3) Prof S Jayakumar – Deputy Prime Minister
4) Yeo Cheow Tong – Minister for Transport
5) Lee Kuan Yew – Minister Mentor (contentious)
In the present Cabinet, there are 19 full Ministers, 2 Senior Minister of States and 6 Minister of States. At present, there are 14 Ministries, not counting the PMO. After promoting the 2 Senior Minister of States (Dr Balaji Sadasivan and Prof Ho Peng Kee), we still see some vacancies (as you will have some Ministers to second certain Ministries). It is unlikely that any of the present 6 Ministers of State be promoted the full Minister, but some are likely to be promoted to Senior Ministers of State. After the GE, it would be interested to see who will deputize the Prime Minister should DPM Jayakumar retires. The candidates are likely to be George Yeo or Teo Chee Hean. Thus, we are likely to see some new PAP candidates in this election that will jump straight into office similar to GE 2001.
In GE 2001, Khaw Boon Wan, Raymond Lim, Tharman Shanmugaratnam, Vivian Balakrishnan, Balaji Sadasivan, Ng Eng Hen and Cedric Foo were appointed Senior Minister of States and Minister of States after the elections. This year, we are going to see some candidates going through the same path. My bet is that you will see some candidates with military background (LG Lim Chuan Poh or Major-General Lim Kim Choon) and female candidates jump into the post of Minister of States. And other present MPs (eg: Parliamentary Secretary Dr Maliki) that have done well might be promoted as well.
Are we going to see more Ministers reallocating to other GRCs?
Yes, I think so. So far, only Khaw Boon Wan has confirmed moving to Sembawang GRC. There are some strong GRCs that would not require 2 heavy-weight Ministers in the same GRC like Bishan-Toa Payoh GRC (DPM Wong Kan Seng and Dr Ng Eng Hen) and Holland-Bukit Panjang GRC (Lim Swee Say and Dr Vivian Balakrishnan).
In other GRCs, Tharman is seconding Lim Boon Yang and Dr Yaacob Ibrahim is seconding Dr Lee Boon Yang; retirement and replacement is foreseeable. Thus, I would expect the reallocation of Dr Ng and Dr Vivian to be strategic in seconding Cabinet Ministers who are likely to step down. Maybe Dr Ng might join Hong Kah GRC to second Yeo Cheow Tong and Dr Vivian might move to Tanjong Pagar GRC or East Coast GRC.
Coming Soon: “Super Seven minus One” – Report Card of Ministers
Khaw Boon Wan and Tharman Shanmugaratnam were appointed Senior Ministers of State straight after the GE 2001, in their first year of politics. Dr Vivian Balakrishnan, Raymond Lim, Dr Ng Eng Hen, Dr Balaji Sadasivan and Cedric Foo were appointed Ministers of State immediately after their first year of politics as well. With the exception of Cedric Foo, who has resigned from office, the rest of the 6 were either full Cabinet Ministers or Senior Minister of State. Since their appointment until now, what have they done and how have they performed? What were the sticky issues that they have handled not so well and how have they dealt with their public image, grassroots issues and foreign media? All that and more, in the next article.