PAP's Charles Chong: Every vote counts
FOR veteran People's Action Party (PAP) MP Charles Chong, contesting in Punggol East is like returning home, with less hair. That is what he tells people he meets on his rounds and who recognise him from his time as MP for Pasir-Ris Punggol GRC from 2001 to 2011.
The big difference is that Mr Chong, 62, a six-term MP who is Deputy Speaker of Parliament, is entering an opposition ward to try to oust incumbent Workers' Party (WP) MP Lee Li Lian.
For him, every vote - whether from a young or old voter - counts. "All of us here are very aware that this is ground held by the other party. She has been here a couple of years so she has a head start on me. We just have to fight to get every vote."
He was referring to Ms Lee who won the single member constituency in a by-election in 2013, after former MP Michael Palmer stepped down following revelations of an extra-marital affair. She beat PAP candidate Koh Poh Koon handily with 54.5 per cent of the votes in a four-cornered fight.
Dr Koh took 43.73 per cent of the votes while Reform Party's Kenneth Jeyaretnam won 1.2 per cent. Singapore Democratic Alliance candidate Desmond Lim got just 168 votes or 0.57 per cent.
The win by Ms Lee represented a swing of some 13.5 percentage points to the WP from the 2011 General Election, when she had stood against Mr Palmer and lost.
Mr Chong acknowledges the battle ahead will be a difficult one, but adds that he has been through tough fights before. In the last General Election, he was fielded against WP's Yee Jenn Jong in Joo Chiat, where he won by just 388 votes.
"Am I on a suicide mission this time? I don't have bombs strapped to my chest," he told The Straits Times with a laugh.
Instead, he is going in with a clear plan. One part of the strategy is to simply use his old ties with residents to raise support. The second major plank of his strategy - pressing home the PAP's point that WP has not been competent in managing the finances of its town council.
If he wins back Punggol East for the PAP, he plans for it to rejoin Pasir Ris-Punggol town council, where it was previously before the by-election. "The residents will need to ask themselves if they are happy subsidising Hougang and Aljunied."
But he admits the issue may not catch fire as the estate is relatively new. "It is new so it's quite clean. But what will happen in two years when everything comes crashing down? Will the Government bail town councils out if the deficit continues to grow?"