Wednesday, February 15, 2012

Yaw Has Been Expelled, What Now?

In case you all are not aware yet, The Workers' Party (WP) held a press conference earlier today to announce that Mr. Yaw Shin Leong, who has recently been embroiled in allegations that he was involved in extramarital affairs, will be expelled from the WP. This would mean that Mr. Yaw will not be able to continue as the Member of Parliament (MP) for Hougang and a by-election will need to be held for Hougang residents to elect a replacement.

Although things are now still in a state of uncertainty and flux, I will just like to share some quick thoughts on this post-Yaw situation.

Who will the WP send to contest Hougang?

While the People's Action Party (PAP) will most likely send Mr. Desmond Choo (who was the losing PAP candidate against Mr. Yaw in last year's election) to again contest in Hougang, it is less clear who the WP will send to contest in Hougang.

In my opinion, the WP may perhaps decide to send one of their current Non-Constituency MPs (NCMPs) to contest in Hougang (am not clear whether NCMPs are allowed to contest in by-election though), in view of the fact that the NCMPs have already perhaps acquired a certain level of "name recognition".

If the WP indeed decide to send of their current NCMPs to contest in Hougang, my guess is that Mr. Gerald Giam will be the one chosen. I base my guess on how many observers seem to agree that Mr. Giam appears to be one of the rising stars in the WP, in view of how he was chosen to represent the WP in a pre-election discussion forum on TV and how, instead of choosing the more senior Mr. Eric Tan, the WP chose Mr. Giam to be their NCMP from the WP team that contested East Coast Group Representation Constituency in the election last year.

Then again, the WP may decide to send one of their woman party members to contest in Hougang to perhaps dispel lingering ill-sentiments about Mr. Yaw's alleged extramarital affairs.

In the end, whoever the WP eventually choose to send to contest in Hougang, he or she is most likely to not be as familiar with the ground or has a very strong grassroots presence in Hougang, compared to Mr. Low Thia Kiang and Mr. Yaw (both of whom supposedly have a strong grassroots presence in Hougang based on the effort and time they spent working the Hougang ground; not to mention their Teochew-speaking background).

How will the WP perform in the by-election?

Although I may be wrong about this but I will think that the WP is most likely to lose some ground in the Hougang by-election.

Firstly, as mentioned above, the replacement WP candidate is quite likely to not be as strong a candidate compared to Mr. Low and Mr. Yaw.

Secondly, the manner in which the WP has dealt with Mr. Yaw and the allegations against him may also cause them to lose some votes. If I remember correctly, the WP initially chose to keep quiet about this issue ("These are just rumours so we will not comment about them") before it was announced that Mr. Yaw will be stepping down from his post as WP Party Treasurer and now, the WP decided it was necessary to expel Mr. Yaw from the party.

Rightly or wrongly, the manner in which the WP has dealt with Mr. Yaw and the allegations against him may have led people to conclude that the WP had originally wanted to perhaps just wait it out and let the issue die down but its hand was forced when ill-sentiments persisted and it had to expel Mr. Yaw. This could potentially cost the WP some votes.

Thirdly, although it may just be the mainstream media playing it up but it appears that the WP is seen by some to have not performed that well following their much-vaunted victories in last year's election. This again could potentially cause the WP to lose some votes.

Of course, on the other hand, since the election last year, there have been several incidents, such as the spate of MRT breakdowns, which could turn people away from the PAP to vote for the WP.

Whatever the results of the by-election are eventually, I am quite sure that many will be analysing them as a barometer of changes in people's attitudes towards not only the WP but also towards the PAP.

What now for Yaw?

Now that he has been expelled from the WP and lost his seat as the MP for Hougang, what's next for Mr. Yaw?

Will he perhaps retire from politics and public life? Or will he join another political party? Or will he perhaps become an independent political player? On this, I have no ready answer - the situation is too uncertain to say for certain.

In the end, this is just the beginning.

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