The WP held a conference to elect its new Central Executive Council (CEC) yesterday afternoon at a rented conference room along Cecil Street. Elections are held once every two years.

According to WP’s website, the following were elected:

Chairman: Ms Sylvia Lim Swee Lian (林瑞莲), 51
Secretary-General: Mr Low Thia Khiang (刘程强), 59

The following 12 members were elected to the Central Executive Council (CEC):
Mr Chen Show Mao (陈硕茂), 54
Mr Muhamad Faisal bin Abdul Manap (莫哈默费沙), 40
Mr Kenneth Foo Seck Guan (符策涫), 39 (NEW)
Mr Gerald Giam Yean Song (严燕松), 38
Dr Daniel Goh Pei Siong (吴佩松), 42
Mr Firuz Khan (菲鲁兹), 49 (NEW)
Ms Lee Li Lian (李丽连), 38
Mr Leon Perera (贝理安), 45 (NEW)
Mr Png Eng Huat (方荣发), 54
Mr Pritam Singh (毕丹星), 40
Mr Tan Kong Soon (陈广顺), 39 (NEW)
Mr Dennis Tan Lip Fong (陈立峰), 45

Which means the following who were elected in 2014 were voted out this time:

Yee Jenn Jong
Mohammed Rahizan bin Yaacob
L Somasundaram
John Yam Poh Nam

However, according to various media reporting, Mr Low Thia Khiang was in fact challenged by Mr Chen Show Mao for the position of Secretary-General. This is the first time Mr Low has been challenged since becoming WP sec-gen in 2001.

Mothership said that an unidentified WP member had nominated Chen Show Mao, and “there was pin-drop silence for a few seconds”. Straits Times reported that Mr Low retained his post with 61 votes, while Mr Chen received 45 votes.

This means that Mr Chen received around 42.5% of the vote against Mr Low.

  • All is not well?

The first thought that comes to mind is that all might not be well within the WP. A credible challenge at 42.5% against Mr Low suggest that some cadres might be unhappy with Mr Low’s leadership, or disagree with the party’s future direction under him.

Given that WP’s membership has expanded tremendously in recent years, an increased diversity in views within the party ranks is to be expected.

These cadres could be sending a message to Mr Low that certain things have to be changed, else he risks getting challenged again or even voted out at the next CEC elections due in 2018. The 2018 CEC election will be crucial, as it is likely to vote in the team that will lead WP into the next GE (which could be held in 2019 or 2020).

  • Did Mr Low foresee a challenge and forestalled it?

According to TODAY, 28 new cadres (who have voting rights) were appointed during the last CEC meeting in April 2016. TODAY understood from party insiders that two-thirds of these new cadres were “brought in by Mr Low to ensure that those who he earmarked for leadership positions could be voted in.” This amounts to approximately 18-19 cadres.

Given that Mr Low only won Mr Chen by 9 votes, these 18-19 cadres might have made the difference for Mr Low this afternoon.

  • Diversity as strength

However, Mr Chen’s challenge could also mean another thing – that WP practices true democracy within the party, unlike some party that is led by a “natural aristocracy. Healthy competition can be good.

And that is a good thing for the party, since the last thing we want is a bunch of Yes Men in Singapore’s largest opposition party – there’s already a surplus of them in the government and the civil service.

In any case, WP could also be signalling to Singaporeans that they have no lack of good and qualified leaders who are ready to step up and lead the party, and that the party is more than just one single individual (unlike many opposition parties out there).