About a month after the resignation of Michael Palmer – the former Speaker of Parliament and Member of Parliament for Punggol East SMC – Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong has called for a by-election. It will be the second by-election in Singapore in less than a year.
President Tony Tan signed the writ of election this afternoon, setting Nomination Day for 16 January. Polling Day will be 10 days later, on 26 January.
The contest promises to be an interesting one. During the 2011 General Election, Punggol East SMC was the only constituency to see a three-cornered fight. This time, more parties are jumping into the fray. Apart from the People’s Action Party (PAP), the Workers’ Party and the Singapore Democratic Alliance, who had contested the constituency in 2011, the Reform Party and Singapore Democratic Party have also indicated that they would be contesting the seat. Benjamin Pwee, formerly from the Singapore’s People Party, has also expressed his intention to stand as a candidate.
Some observers have pointed out that the timing of the by-election gives the incumbent PAP the upper hand, as opposition parties might not have sufficient time to properly select their candidates and prepare their campaigns. A multi-corner fight may also benefit the ruling party by splitting opposition votes between different candidates.
The parties have not yet named their candidates, but it is believed that colorectal doctor Koh Poh Koon will most likely be the PAP’s candidate.
Meanwhile, Minister of State Halimah Yacob will be elected the new Speaker of Parliament after she steps down as the Minister of State for Social and Family Development.