How Low can you go?

So all those rumours I have been hearing are true. It finally came to a head so publicly. Big time corporate lawyer Hokkien clan Chen Show Mao challenging Teochew towkay Low Thia Khiang for the post of Secretary-General of the Workers’ Party.

He lost. But Chen didn’t do too badly. Low only managed 57% of the voters.

According to cadres, there are two camps within the WP. Low has an autocratic leadership style. The new cadres he nominated recently are mostly his “yes-men and yes-women”. I noticed during the victory speeches in 2011 GE, Chen was not allowed to speak. Others in the team spoke.

More in tune with the Western educated, Chen believes in consultation more and leads a “reformist camp”. This camp is not happy about the mismanagement of AHPETC accounts and their lacklustre performance in the last GE.

Low and Chen have been insisting that this is normal intra-party democracy and they’re going to work together after this. If this was really true, would the two senior CEC members who nominated Chen (L. Somasundram and John Yam) have been voted out of the CEC, including by the new cadres Low nominated? I saw Chen on TV and he unconvincingly tried to downplay it by saying it was a non event. Not before stuttering and tripping himself all over. How can it be a small matter when you challenge the leadership of your party and win almost half of the votes? This is serious business.

I read some report that says the leadership tussle has been brewing since 2014. I actually heard from my WP friends it has been happening since 2013. We saw some signs during the Parliament debates on AHPETC in Feb 2015. Then, Chen was asked why he did not raise the alarm when the secretary, GM and DGM of the town council also owned the managing agents. After all, he was the chairman of the TC’s finance and investment committee. He’s also a top corporate lawyer who surely knew this was a massive conflict of interests. Millions of dollars of deals were given to the people who were in obvious conflict of interest, completely unacceptable.

After responding once on 12th Feb, Chen did not respond again when he was repeatedly questioned on 13th Feb. Nor did Low jump up to defend him, like how he defended Pritam Singh when Singh was caught out by saying “I do not see any Member of Parliament should need to answer any individual questions.”

Some are speculating that Sylvia Lim and Chen may lead the split. Others have said Chen may not even run for the next GE. Surely, a strong candidate like him must think he can do better than staying on the sidelines most of the time. I wonder if this under-performance in Parliament in the last few years was due to someone muzzling him.

The latest votes – 61 to 45 – is a clear sign that the WP is quite split, almost down the middle. Maybe very soon, more will cross over to the new camp, the likes of English educated cadres like Dennis Tan, Daniel Goh and He Ting Ru.