PSP’s Dr Tan Cheng Bock doesn’t rule out contesting in upcoming GE

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SINGAPORE: Amidst growing speculation about an early election, Dr Tan Cheng Bock, Chairman of the Progress Singapore Party (PSP), has not ruled out the possibility of contesting in the upcoming General Election (GE).

Under the leadership of 83-year-old Dr Tan, PSP has been actively engaging in grassroots efforts in West Coast GRC.

This surge in activity follows the resignation of former Transport Minister S Iswaran from Parliament and the PAP. Iswaran faced 27 charges, including corruption allegations, prompting his departure.

In a recent Facebook post on the official PSP page, the party disclosed that over the weekend, Team PSP, led by Dr Tan, Party Secretary-General NCMP Leong Mun Wai, and Vice Chairman Hazel Poa, visited markets and eateries in West Coast, Nanyang, Pioneer, Boon Lay, Telok Blangah, Teck Whye, Hong Kah North, and Chong Pang.

The post highlighted that while NCMPs typically do not have access to book Town Council spaces for community activities, PSP is committed to doing its best to reach out to residents during their walkabouts.

PSP’s ambition to secure more Parliamentary seats

During the 27 January walkabout, when asked by local media about his potential candidacy, Dr Tan said, “If you believe in active ageing, I shouldn’t retire right? If you all think that age is not a problem, I’ll be around.”

When pressed further to confirm whether he would be contesting, he replied: “I never say no.”

He expressed optimism about the impact of Iswaran’s departure on the PSP chances in West Coast GRC in the next GE.

“Of course, we hope that will help us, but I think it all depends on the electorate, how we perform,” Dr Tan said.

He conveyed the party’s ambition to secure more seats in Parliament, emphasizing the importance of demonstrating the capability of PSP members.

“We must show Singaporeans that we have capable people in the House,” he added.

PSP steps up grassroots presence amidst early election speculation

Additionally, the party sec-gen Mr Leong revealed that PSP is set to escalate its walkabouts in West Coast GRC, shifting from a monthly to a weekly frequency.

He affirmed that despite the Iswaran factor, the party’s primary focus remains on serving the people.

“So we will continue our walkabouts and house visits, which we have already been doing after the last election actually.”

NCMP Hazel Poa added a nuanced perspective, acknowledging the discussions surrounding Iswaran’s case potentially improving PSP’s chances in West Coast GRC.

However, she cautioned against overemphasizing a single factor, stating, “In politics, in elections, there are many many factors affecting the results, and it would be complacent for us to actually think that just because of this one incident we will get a better chance at getting into parliament. ”

“I think we don’t want to make that mistake.”

PAP narrowly secured West Coast GRC during the GE2020

During GE 2020, under the leadership of S. Iswaran and Desmond Lee, the PAP team narrowly clinched victory with 51.69 per cent of the votes, securing the seat against the PSP led by veteran politician Dr Tan Cheng Bock.

This marked a notable decline of 26 percentage points in the PAP’s vote share from the 2015 election, where they garnered a commanding 78.57 per cent against the Reform Party (RP).

The PSP secured 48.31 per cent of the vote, accumulating 138,416 valid votes out of 146,251 cast.

Since its establishment in 1997, the West Coast GRC has previously experienced two walkovers and faced challenges from the Workers’ Party and the Reform Party.

However, until this recent election, the PAP had never secured less than 66.6 per cent of the votes in the region.

Dr Tan, a former PAP backbencher, founded the alternative party PSP in March 2019.

During the GE2020, the PSP fielded candidates across nine constituencies, vying for a total of 24 seats. Dr Tan himself contested in the West Coast GRC.

On 20 August last year, PM Lee revealed intentions to step down in favour of Deputy Prime Minister Lawrence Wong, potentially around the PAP’s 70th anniversary on 21 November 2024, although an exact timeline was not disclosed.

Despite the absence of a clear timeline, PM Lee’s announcement suggests a likelihood of the General Election occurring in 2024, possibly before the party’s anniversary in November.

Speculation suggests that in the aftermath of an extramarital affair scandal involving former Parliamentary Speaker Tan Chuan-Jin and former Tampines MP Cheng Li Hui, the former Minister Iswaran graft trail, and the Ridout Road controversy involving Ministers K Shanmugam and Vivian Balakrishnan, alternative parties might have an increased likelihood of challenging PAP strongholds.

Of notable importance is the prevailing group sentiment regarding concerns about the cost of living, inflation, housing, and job insecurity, which significantly influences the ground-level support for the ruling party.

In response to the PAP’s dominant 2/3 majority in Parliament, Singapore’s political landscape has witnessed increased manoeuvring,  intensifying grassroots outreach efforts, and witnessing alternative parties forming political alliances — both formal and informal — to contest in the upcoming GE.

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