In his first press conference since his defeat in the General Elections, former Foreign Minister George Yeo confirmed to a room pack full of reporters that he will not be running in the next elections for Aljunied, due to happen by 2016.
Mr. Yeo had remained largely silent since last Saturday, when it was announced that the opposition Workers’ Party had won the Aljunied GRC by a relatively large margin of almost 10 percent. It marked the first time in which an opposition party managed to wrestle a GRC from the ruling People’s Action Party. The result sent Low’s team into the parliament, at the expense of Yeo’s team.
When asked by a reporter if he was retiring from politics, Mr. Yeo did not give a definite answer. Instead, he said that politics is the “responsibility of every citizen to be involved”, and thus he will never “retire from politics” in that sense.
Despite reports circulating that Mr. Yeo is retiring from politics altogether, the nuance of his press conference with the reporters at the Foreign Ministry of Singapore certainly did not suggest that. He had merely said that he would not be running for Aljunied GRC in the next elections — nothing however, rules out the possibility of him joining another GRC such as the Tanjong Pagar GRC or even in a SMC.
Outpouring of Support since his defeat
Many Singaporeans, both in the mainstream and alternative media, expressed not only support but also sympathy for George Yeo, for whom many felt “did nothing wrong”, in the words of SM Goh. For some, he was the victim of the GRC system and of a heated electoral battle in Aljunied GRC whereby national issues of having an opposition voice was at stake.
Indeed, it could be intimidating to think what would happen otherwise if The Workers’ Party’s “A-team” lost in Aljunied GRC: Singapore might only have 1 opposition MP as a result of the elections. Over 40% of Singaporeans, or close to 1 million people who have voted for opposition, will be represented by a sole voice in parliament — most likely to be that of Yaw Shin Leong, a newly minted MP of the Hougang SMC.
When he called for transformative change within the PAP in the middle of the elections, some Singaporeans began to feel that they finally had a voice within the ruling party was willing to acknowledge that mistakes were being made, instead of perpetually disagreeing with contentious voices and criticisms, and talking past each other. Many saw George as being pivotal to Singapore’s success — he was afterall, the Foreign Minister that had painstakingly cultivated important, personal and human relationships with other dignitaries abroad. He was also perceived to be a moderate within the PAP, a person who engaged his fans and critics alike on the social media of Facebook, who was willing to listen to all viewpoints and discuss them. When I added him on Facebook, I received a message from him complementing the list of books I read. Such was George’s personal touch.
He most certainly was the PAP’s best bet for connecting with both younger and older Singaporeans. Despite his age, he showed a willingness to utilize internet mediums to engage the young on issues concerning Singapore, by participating in constructive two-way discussions and dialogues with his fans on Facebook — rather than a one-way communication of posting a status update and having a few thousand comments after that without ever responding to them. He also kept healthy and one famous photo of him circulated around on the internet was of him executing a chin-up midway.
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