Pritam Singh has been confirmed as the new Secretary-General of the Workers’ Party. This comes after former boss Low Thia Khiang announced last November that he would step down after 17 years of leading the party. In that time Low has established himself as Singapore’s most successful opposition politician, leading Workers’ Party to victories in Aljunied GRC in 2011 and 2015, and turning the party into a credible political force. In addition to Singh’s election, a new Central Executive Committee was also selected, while Sylvia Lim maintained her position as party chairman.
Why is this significant?
The leadership transition at the Workers’ Party will herald a period of renewal among Singapore’s political class, with the PAP also in the process of transitioning to a new generation of leaders. Unlike the PAP renewal, however, where the identity of the next leader remains very much up in the air, the election of Singh has been more decisive – his election was unopposed, and he received the public backing of other key party figures a short while ago.
How the Workers’ Party itself evolves under Pritam Singh will also be of great interest. Under Low the party adopted a more moderate approach to politics, focusing largely on building strong grassroots support with constituents rather than the more confrontational approach of opposition figures like J.B. Jeyaretnam and Chee Soon Juan. Singh has already indicated that he will continue in Low’s direction of building a party to check the PAP government, because of course, ownself cannot check ownself. Others, on the other hand, including Chen Show Mao, who challenged Low for the top post in 2016, have called for leadership that is more assertive in embracing new ideas and challenging the orthodoxy of the incumbent government.