The Punggol East seat has being vacant ever since Member of Parliament Michael Palmer stepped down last month due to an extra-marital affair. Now I have said several times that the PAP should show the by-election ASAP as the opposition is having problems deciding who should contest the seat. The Workers' Party (WP), Singapore Democratic Party (SDP), the Singapore Democratic Alliance, Reform Party and at least one independent have expressed interest in the seat.
Despite many people hoping that the other opposition parties will surrender the seat to the WP in this by-election, it is highly unlikely that will happen. They will earn nothing in surrendering the seat and both the SDP and Reform having bigger names in their stable than anyone the WP can put up. So holding the by-election now makes sense for the PAP.
However, I have to question the quick turnaround for this by-election. The campaign is only 10 days! Now this may be in keeping with recent elections but I feel this is different. 40-year-old surgeon, Dr Koh Poh Koon, is widely expected to be the PAP candidate in the by-election after being seen accompanying caretaker MP, Teo Ser Luck, during a Meet-the-People session.
Dr. Koh is a surprising choice because no one knows him. Even though the PAP name should carry him first over the finish line, there is no reason for the PAP to take the risk. Having a long campaign period this round will works in the PAP favor. It will give the residents in the constituency more time to know Dr. Koh and it comes with little risk as the opposition is in disarray. In fact the short campaign period might actually help the opposition as the public is still distracted by the recent AIM-Town Council saga.
No matter which opposition party is in the contest, the PAP should win Punggol East. Michael Palmer won by over 13% the last time round. However, the PAP need to be careful. This by-election may not be the cakewalk they are expecting.