Nicole Seah joining Workers’ Party will ignite the Battle of the East

Nicole Seah joining Workers’ Party will ignite the Battle of the East

Mothership.SG·2017-12-28 10:10

The re-emergence of GE2011 star opposition candidate Nicole Seah made big news.

It propelled her into the the Straits Times list of .

News of her swapping the orange of National Solidarity Party (NSP) for the blue of Workers’ Party (WP) as a volunteer walking the ground in East Coast GRC raises intriguing possibilities: How will it play out in the battle for East Coast GRC and Marine Parade GRC — two key eastern constituencies?

A wiser & older Nicole Seah will be a more formidable candidate than the NSP 2011 version

Opens up options

WP under the current Secretary-General Low Thia Khiang’s leadership has been known to be cautious in absorbing individuals who left other political parties, preferring to attract, observe and groom potential candidates from within.

Assuming Seah formally joins the WP and is selected as a candidate for the next election, it will be a rare exception for a party seeking to acquire something special to help it achieve another breakthrough in the east, one of the areas where it has traditionally focused its efforts.


WP adopts an area approach for its outreach efforts when walking the ground, hence it is seen as relatively less vulnerable to electoral boundary changes. It has Northern, Eastern and North-Eastern Area Committees for more focused grassroots engagement.

Seah’s work at East Coast and her potential deployment as a WP candidate opens up options for the party as she can also be fielded in Marine Parade, where she was widely credited for the National Solidarity Party’s good showing at the polls in 2011.

East Coast and Marine Parade GRC: Who will be the new PAP anchor minister?

PAP faces transition challenges in East Coast and Marine Parade at the next GE. These two GRCs have have one thing in common: The PAP will be looking for new anchor ministers to helm the teams.

East Coast GRC

The current East Coast GRC PAP team of four MPs is led by Manpower Minister Lim Swee Say, who is a five-term veteran and widely expected to retire from his Cabinet position before the next election.

The rest of the PAP team are Lee Yi Shyan (three-term), Maliki Osman (four-term) and Jessica Tan (three-term).

Given the profile of the MPs, it is clear that new blood will be required to refresh the ranks. However, depending on PAP’s tactical considerations, it may choose to retain a core of experienced MPs to meet the challenge posed by WP.

Marine Parade GRC

The current Marine Parade PAP team is made up of five members: ESM Goh Chok Tong (10-term), Tan Chuan-Jin (two-term), Fatimah Lateef (three-term), Seah Kian Peng (three-term) and Edwin Tong (two-term)

Tan Chuan-Jin, the Speaker of Parliament, was named by Goh as anchor minister in

Tan Chuan-Jin on his role as Marine Parade anchor minister, ESM Goh Chok Tong & making chicken rice

Tan has , leaving a void in the leadership narrative of the PAP team at the constituency level.

Key Questions

Will Lim Swee Say and Goh Chok Tong retire from politics?

Will there be new anchor ministers in East Coast and Marine Parade?

If so, who will they be?

Anchor minister: What’s the big deal?

The role of the anchor minister came out of PAP’s playbook after the GRC system was implemented in 1988.

It sought to focus the electorate’s attention on the high stakes involved in elections as they are reminded of the significance of their votes, which will determine the future of heavyweight ministers and high-calibre political talent from the PAP.

To form a balanced team in each GRC, new candidates of each cohort will be spread out among different GRCs, which often comprise one or two new faces, veteran backbenchers and the requisite ministerial anchor.

It has been criticised by the opposition as a tactical approach by the PAP to allow new or “weaker” candidates get elected by hanging on to the coat-tails of older MPs.

The “winner-takes-all” approach cuts both way. The party experienced it first-hand in 2011, when it lost two Cabinet ministers in the painful defeat of Aljunied GRC.

List of anchor ministers

It’s still early days before the next election, which is only due by early 2021.

Ahead of the signalling the end of the first half of this term of government, news of the and an imminent Cabinet reshuffle will soon see the topic of the next election heat up.

Here’s the full list of all 15 GRCs and their anchor ministers in yellow highlights. Ministers who are not anchor ministers in their constituency are highlighted in blue.

4-member GRC

Chua Chu Kang GRC Gan Kim Yong, Low Yen Ling, Yee Chia Hsing, Zaqy Mohamad

East Coast GRC Lim Swee Say, Mohamad Maliki Bin Osman, Lee Yi Shyan, Jessica Tan

Holland-Bukit Timah GRC Vivian Balakrishnan, Sim Ann, Christopher De Souza, Liang Eng Hwa,

Jalan Besar GRC Yaacob Ibrahim, Heng Chee How, Lily Neo, Denise Phua

Marsiling-Yew Tee GRC1 Lawrence Wong, Alex Yam, Ong Teng Koon

West Coast GRC Lim Hng Kiang, S Iswaran, Patrick Tay, Foo Mee Har

1Halimah Yacob stepped down as Speaker and MP at the same time she resigned from PAP to run for President in Aug 2017.

5-member GRC

Bishan-Toa Payoh GRC Ng Eng Hen , Josephine Teo, Chee Hong Tat, Chong Kee Hiong, Saktiandi Supaat

Jurong GRC Tharman Shanmugaratnam, Desmond Lee, Ang Wei Neng, Rahayu Mahzam, Tan Wu Meng

Marine Parade GRC2 Goh Chok Tong, Tan Chuan-Jin, Seah Kian Peng, Fatimah Lateef, Edwin Tong

Nee Soon GRC K Shanmugam, Muhammad Faishal, Henry Kwek, Lee Bee Wah, Louis Ng

Sembawang GRC Khaw Boon Wan, Ong Ye Kung, Amrin Amin, Lim Wee Kiak, Vikram Nair

Tampines GRC Heng Swee Keat, Masagos Zulkifli, Desmond Choo, Cheng Li Hui, Baey Yam Keng

Tanjong Pagar GRC Chan Chun Sing, Indranee Rajah, Chia Shi Lu, Joan Pereira, Melvin Yong

2Tan Chuan Jin stepped down as Minister for Social and Family Development and was appointed Speaker of Parliament in Sept. 2017

6-member GRC

Ang Mo Kio GRC Lee Hsien Loong, Koh Poh Koon, Ang Hin Kee, Darryl David, Gan Thiam Poh, Intan Azura Mokhtar

Pasir Ris-Punggol GRC Teo Chee Hean, Ng Chee Meng, Janil Puthucheary, Teo Ser Luck , Zainal Sapari, Sun Xueling


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