Analysis: Iswaran case unlikely to delay PAP leadership handover or GE, but contest for


SINGAPORE: The charging of former Transport Minister S Iswaran will likely have little impact on the plans for the People’s Action Party (PAP) leadership handover and the next General Election (GE), political analysts said.

This is because Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong would likely have factored in the possibility of the case going to trial.

Even if the trial takes longer than expected, the charging and Iswaran’s resignations as Member of Parliament (MP) and PAP member is a good enough conclusion to the investigation by the Corrupt Practices Investigation Bureau (CPIB) and a clean slate for the ruling party to move ahead from there, they added.

However, pundits believe that the void left by the long-serving Iswaran in West Coast Group Representation Constituency (GRC) presents a challenge for PAP in the next GE – the party will have to find a suitable replacement who may come up against a tough electoral contest.

A total of 27 charges were filed against Iswaran, 61, on Thursday (Jan 18) morning, mostly related to bribery and corruption involving more than S$384,300 (US$285,950).

Deputy Prime Minister Lawrence Wong said to reporters around noon the same day that the plan for the leadership transition to take place before the next General Election “remains on track”.

For Ms Nydia Ngiow, the managing director of consultancy BowerGroupAsia, this assurance puts paid to any notion that the latest developments in the Iswaran case might derail PAP’s plans for a leadership handover and following that, an election.

“Given what Mr Wong indicated, we do not think that the timeline will be delayed,” she said.

“Rather, noting that this also depends on when the trial is concluded, it is more likely that the transition timeline could be pushed up to build on the momentum following any goodies that Mr Wong may announce in the 2024 Budget that will look to deal with rising costs of living and implement the outcomes arising from his Forward Singapore initiative.”

Independent political analyst Felix Tan agreed, adding that the situation has already “reached a finality”.

“The Attorney-General’s Chambers have already charged him, the CPIB report has been finalised, and Iswaran has resigned from the PAP. It’s already a clean slate (for Mr Wong).”

WHAT ABOUT WEST COAST GRC?

What is less certain, though, is what is to come for West Coast GRC, and PAP’s chances of winning this hotly contested spot.

Dr Mustafa Izzuddin, a senior international affairs analyst with business consultancy Solaris Strategies Singapore, said that he thinks the loss of Iswaran will not necessarily lead to PAP losing the GRC, but there are big shoes that the party now needs to fill.

“Iswaran was a well-liked and popular MP at West Coast. With him not running, that’s where the PAP would need to strengthen (its lineup of candidates).”

Indeed, Dr Tan noted that the Progress Singapore Party (PSP) had put up a strong fight in West Coast GRC in GE 2020 – PAP had barely come out on top with 51.69 per cent of the votes in a tight contest.

“Given the nature of how Iswaran departed from the constituency, there might be residents who may be in favour of giving the Opposition a chance within the GRC,” he said, adding that whom PAP chooses to be the anchor minister helming the West Coast GRC team could potentially sway voters. 

Associate Professor Bilveer Singh from the National University of Singapore (NUS) echoed these sentiments, saying that he believes PAP might not have enough high-profile political office-holders within its ranks to find a suitable replacement for Iswaran.



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