Senior Minister Goh Chok Tong yesterday revealed that the People's Action Party (PAP) is at the tail end of interviewing potential candidates for the upcoming General Election.
The ruling party needed only a couple more candidates and 'we will be all set for the GE', he said at a PAP Women's Wing event. 'However, one key consideration for the Prime Minister is whether to hold it before or after the presidential election in August,' he added.
Mr Goh is the first PAP leader to mention in public the possibility that the GE could take place after the presidential election, due by Aug 31 this year. The GE must be held by February 2012. Last Friday, Foreign Minister George Yeo said the GE would probably take place in the second quarter of this year.
As for the PAP's line-up of candidates, Mr Goh said it would include activists from the party ranks and those from outside the party. It would also be a young line-up as the party is 'self-renewing to secure Singapore's future'.
Mr Goh also reiterated a point he had made in previous speeches, that 'from this GE, we must produce the fourth prime minister and his team of ministers'.
Traditionally, the PAP replaces about a quarter of its MPs at each election, bringing in 20 to 25 new candidates. Besides intellect and competence, the party looks for 'character qualities' like integrity, humility, sincerity, commitment and ability to relate to constituents.
One thing the party always tries to ascertain in its interviews is why prospective candidates want to be an MP, and if they have a genuine interest in serving the people and their country, he said.
'The MPs must be able to relate to people, whatever their background, understand their problems, and help to solve them. They may not always succeed in doing so, but they must sincerely try. People can quickly tell the difference between a sincere MP who truly cares, and someone who is just there for the ride and the perks.'
Mr Goh also said by fielding the best possible slate of candidates, the PAP forces other political parties to field better qualified people.
That means stiffer competition for the PAP itself but it 'is good for Singapore'.
He also threw down this challenge to Women's Wing members : Help address Singapore's declining total fertility rate, which fell to an all-time low of 1.16 last year, down from 1.22 in 2009.
Women's Wing members should revisit the issue and make proposals to the National Population and Talent Division, he said.
At yesterday's investiture, the Women's Wing inducted two new office holders into its executive committee: Ms Foo Mee Har, 45, Standard Chartered Bank's global head of premium banking, and Ms Mary Yeo, 52, vice-president for supply chain operations (South Area district, Asia-Pacfic) at UPS.
They were elected to the posts of assistant secretary and assistant treasurer respectively. Both had also addressed cadres at the PAP party conference in November last year.
Yesterday, Women's Wing chairman Lim Hwee Hua was asked if more women candidates would be fielded in the coming GE. She said: 'We have been actively working since the last general election, trying to reach out to a wide spectrum of women, so it's work in progress.'
- end of ST article. Reprinted with permission.