Rumours that Ong Ye Kung may be fielded at Aljunied GRC arise as he returns to his former ground for National Day Dinner

SINGAPORE: Health Minister Ong Ye Kung’s return to Workers’ Party-held (WP) Aljunied Group Representation Constituency (GRC) for a National Day Dinner has sparked questions about whether he is simply supporting the People’s Action Party (PAP) branch chairmen there or whether he will be re-fielded in the ward to wrest the opposition stronghold back to the ruling party.

Mr Ong, a former civil servant who had served as Principal Private Secretary to Lee Hsien Loong as well as NTUC Assistant Secretary-General, made his political debut as part of the PAP’s 5-man team for Aljunied GRC in the 2011 General Election. In a watershed victory, the WP won the ward, marking the first time in Singapore’s history when the PAP lost a GRC in an election.

Following the 2011 election, Mr Ong continued to work at the labour movement before moving on to Keppel Corporation. He returned as a PAP candidate in the 2015 election but was fielded as a candidate contesting in Sembawang GRC, which was widely considered “safer” for him.

The PAP team won with 72% of the vote and Mr Ong was elected to Parliament, under the leadership of anchor minister Khaw Boon Wan. He was again fielded in Sembawang GRC in the 2020 general election.

Now, more than a decade since he contested the ward, Mr Ong is returning to Aljunied GRC for a National Day Dinner scheduled to take place on 27 July.

The event is being hosted by one of the PAP’s unelected branch chairpersons in Aljunied GRC and supported by the People’s Association, alongside grassroots organisations in the constituency. Tickets are priced at $36 per seat.

Some Singaporeans responding to the event asked why Mr Ong is headlining a National Day Dinner in the ward and asked whether he will be fielded as the anchor minister at Aljunied GRC in the looming election.

Others, however, forecast that he is making the appearance to bolster support for the PAP team in the ward and that fielding a high-profile fourth-generation leader like Mr Ong is an opposition stronghold could likely be a “suicide mission”.

Several reasons underpin the skepticism surrounding Mr Ong’s potential candidacy in Aljunied GRC. The WP has solidified its presence in the area since its landmark victory in 2011, making it a formidable opponent. Mr Ong’s established political career in Sembawang GRC also makes it a less risky and more advantageous position for him to maintain.

Historically, the PAP’s strategy has typically involved deploying prominent figures to constituencies where their success is more assured, thereby consolidating their influence and leadership within the government. The political capital required to mount a successful challenge in Aljunied GRC could be significant, and the stakes for a high-profile loss are considerable.

As the National Day Dinner approaches, the question of whether Mr Ong’s appearance in Aljunied GRC signals a broader strategy for the upcoming elections or merely represents support for local PAP efforts remains a topic of keen interest.

TISG/

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