TODAY ran a good article on the WP leadership tussle. TODAY quoted several party members and activists for their views on the issue. You can read the article here.


(For those of you who haven’t been following, Low Thia Khiang (LTK) was challenged by Chen Show Mao (CSM) during the WP CEC election on 29 May 16 for the sec-gen position.)


Pic of Shen Show Mao by New Nation


Here’s a summary of the backstory that TODAY managed to unravel:

  • A dissenting faction within WP (dubbed as the “reformists”) are unhappy with LTK’s allegedly autocratic leadership style

“Members in the “reformist camp” aspire towards a more inclusive leadership that accommodates different ideas and feedback, he added.

“This is important if we want to speak for the diverse community of Singaporeans,” he said.

Such a vision is at odds with Mr Low’s strong hold on the party, which some WP members said mirrors the late Mr Lee Kuan Yew’s leadership of the ruling People’s Action Party.

“(Mr Low) prefers very young people who can obediently toe his line and do his bidding. Those who think out of the box and stand tall with him are sidelined,” one member told TODAY.

Anyone who suggests reforms will be “punished”, he said, citing how certain veterans were not selected as candidates for last year’s GE.”

  • The reformist faction wants CSM as he is perceived to be more consultative and inclusive than Low

“TODAY understands that several veteran cadres had urged Mr Chen, 55, to enter the fray as he is believed to be most senior CEC member who advocates a more “consultative and inclusive” approach in running the party.

Obviously, there are reformists trying to steer the party away from an autocratic leadership style … We hope what Mr Chen did would provide a psychological impact for cadre members to keep an independent mind,” said a member who has been with the WP for over 10 years.

In contrast, Mr Chen is seen as one who welcomes criticism and “makes everyone feel like they have a stake in the party”, he said.”

  • The reformist faction is unhappy with the current system of how cadres and election candidates are selected

“Some party activists in the dissenting camp also feel that the newly minted CEC and present slate of cadres reflect a professional bias.

There is a disproportionate number of members in elite professions, like lawyers and academics, which is not representative of society,” one of them said.

In what Mr Low and Ms Lim had repeatedly touted as “leadership renewal”, dissenters described such mantra as mere rhetoric. “This is just the leadership’s way of keeping the ‘yes men’ and ‘yes women’ while sidelining the rest,” one member said…

and a “lack of transparency” on how individuals were appointed as cadre members and selected as election candidates.”

  • They also want to hold LTK and Sylvia Lim accountable for the town council boo-boo, and WP’s lacklustre performance

“Among other issues that saw some members throw their support behind Mr Chen included the corporate governance woes surrounding the former Aljunied-Hougang-Punggol East Town Council — which party sources said threw up heated debates during the CEC’s four-hour meeting on Sunday…S

One former member said some also felt that Mr Low and party chairman Sylvia Lim should take responsibility for the setback the WP suffered in the General Election (GE) last September.”

  • The reformists want Low Thia Khiang to take their concerns seriously, or else…

“Although Mr Low retained his post, some party members said the fact that Mr Chen managed to secure more than two-fifths of the votes — 45 out of 106 — would provide the impetus needed for Mr Low to address the concerns that WP members have.

What happened on Sunday should prompt the party leadership to review its approach before the next GE, members said. “The secretary-general will have to take note of the reformists’ agenda, that they are a considerable force not to be taken lightly,” one member said.”

And here’s what we think what really happened:

  • Old guard WP cadres buay song LTK for favouring the newer, younger, and more electable WP cadres.
  • Old guard feel they been with LTK longer, do so much for the party but still must play second fiddle to the newbies. They also feel they should be fielded as candidates. So they dulan, go find Chen Show Mao to pressure LTK.
  • But LTK also bo bian, right? He must attract new talent who are electable into the party, else how to win elections? Field the old guard can win elections or not?

Basically, WP is facing a problem that most organisations might face when they are expanding.

We hope that LTK will be able to do a fine balancing act.

The last thing we want to see is WP imploding. Opposition parties in Singapore already have a very sad history as it is… let’s hope this won’t become another dark chapter.