The by-election of the Hougang Single-Member Constituency was held on 26 May 2012, and was won by Mr Png Eng Huat representing the Workers' Party. The by-election was held as a result of the expulsion of Mr Yaw Shin Leong, Member of Parliament (MP) for Hougang, from the Workers' Party.

Yaw Shin Leong's expulsion:
"Shin Leong has been accused of several indiscretions in his private life. By continuing not to account to the party and the people, especially the residents of Hougang, he has broken the faith, trust and expectations of the party and people," said WP in a sharpy worded statement.
"Shin Leong has been accused of several indiscretions in his private life. By continuing not to account to the party and the people, especially the residents of Hougang, he has broken the faith, trust and expectations of the party and people," said WP in a sharpy worded statement.

After skipping a Meet-the-People session, being absent from the Worker's Party's regular monthly meeting where his resignation from the WP treasurer post was accepted, and failing to turn up on a 14 Feb council meeting where he was told to explain the allegations about his extramarital affairs, WP board members reached the decision to sack Yaw from the party. Mr Yaw decided not to appeal against this decision. [1]

Under the Constitution of Singapore § 46 (2) (b) , an MP's seat falls vacant if the MP "ceases to be a member of, or is expelled or resigns from, the political party for which he stood in the election". [quote from wikipedia] Also, under § 49, "Whenever the seat of a Member, not being a non-constituency Member, has become vacant for any reason other than a dissolution of Parliament, the vacancy shall be filled by election in the manner provided by or under any law relating to Parliamentary elections for the time being in force." [2]

On 9 May 2012, a writ for a by-election was issued by President Tony Tan. Nomination for this by-election is slated to be on 16 May 2012, and polling was to be held on 26 May 2012. [3]

Nominations:


PAP announced on 10 May 2012 that Mr Desmond Choo will be running for the Hougang ward, while WP announced on the same evening that they will be fielding Mr Png Eng Huat for the candidacy. In the 2011 elections, Desmond Choo also contested for the Hougang ward, while Png Eng Huat contested in the East Coast GRC.

On May 15, Political Donation Certificates (certificates issued by the Registrar of Political Donations to potential election candidates upon receipt of the duly completed pre-election Donation Report and Declaration Form [quote from http://www.eld.gov.sg/candidates_pdcert.html]) were issued to four individuals: Desmond Choo of PAP, Png Eng Huat and Poh Lee Guan of WP, and Zeng Guoyan, a former WP member who will be running as an independent candidate.[4]

The intention of Dr Poh Lee Guan to run for elections was unknown to WP members, and the issuing of the Political Donation Certificate to him fuelled speculations of internal rifts among WP. However, the WP chief Low Thia Kiang denied such reports,and claimed that all WP members are behind Mr Png. Mr Png claimed that he was the unofficial "spare" candidate [5] for the Hougang by-election, which Mr Low denied as well. In any case, Dr Poh did not turn up to submit his nomination papers on Nomination Day.

Zeng Guoyan, and acupuncturist and former WP member, received his Political Donation Certificate, but was barred from running in the by-elections because of a previous offence which garnered him a fine in 2008. He did not submit his nomination papers. [6]

The by-election is hence a straight fight between PAP's Desmond Choo and WP's Png Eng Huat.
Desmond Choo of PAP (left) and Png Eng Huat of the WP (right)
Desmond Choo of PAP (left) and Png Eng Huat of the WP (right)


Along the way:


Deputy Prime Minister Teo Chee Hean questioned whether WP is sending its best man for the Hougang by-elections, since they did not send Png Eng Huat to the Parliament as a non-constituency MP (NCMP), when they could. Png Eng Huat lost the elections in East Coast GRC last year, and he could have been put in the Parliament as a 'best loser'. [7]

Png Eng Huat clarified that he was not put in the Parliament as he 'took his name out of the ballot for the NCMP post' because he was personally against the NCMP scheme. He did not like how the NCMP scheme is used to control the number of opposition representatives in the Parliament. However, a leaked memo from the Workers' Party Central Executive Committee (CEC) May 12 meeting last year showed that Mr Png has received one vote for the NCMP seat. This contradicted Png's claims that he has removed his name from the ballot.

Mr Png apologised later for the 'confusion caused by the language used'. According to him, by 'ballot', he was referring to the entire voting process of selecting the NCMP. He insisted that he had made clear to the CEC that he did not want to be considered for the NCMP position. [8]

DPM Teo Chee Hean repeatedly suggested that Png and the WP has integrity and honesty issues, and that he is not the "best man" of WP. WP, on the other hand, declared that PAP is smearing WP's reputation with "baseless attacks" and "character assassinations". [9]

Results


Workers' Party's Png Eng Huat won the elections with 62.09% of the votes. However, this does not mean that Hougang will still be unable to enjoy government-funded estate upgrading projects, as the Prime Minister himself has promised otherwise. [10]



References:

[1] Workers' Party expels Hougang MP Yaw Shin Leong, http://www.straitstimes.com/BreakingNews/Singapore/Story/STIStory_767115.html
[2] Yaw Shin Leong's Parliament seat to be decided Feb 24, http://www.channelnewsasia.com/stories/singaporelocalnews/view/1183590/1/.html
[3] Writ of Election, http://www.eld.gov.sg/gazette/G_ParE2012/2012-05-09%20Parliamentary%20Elections%20Act%20-%20Writ%20of%20Election.pdf
[4] Elections Department issues 4 political donation certificates, http://sg.news.yahoo.com/elections-department-issues-4-political-donation-certificates.html
[5] 'I was the 'spare'': Workers' Party's Poh Lee Guan, http://www.straitstimes.com/The-Big-Story/The-Big-Story-2/Story/STIStory_799492.html
[6] Independent Zeng Guoyan did not file nomination papers, http://www.asiaone.com/News/Latest%2BNews/Singapore/Story/A1Story20120516-346217.html
[7] 'Is Png Eng Huat WP's best man?', asks Teo Chee Hean, http://www.straitstimes.com/The-Big-Story/The-Big-Story-2/Story/STIStory_801008.html
[8] WP's Png Eng Huat clarifies NCMP comments, http://www.straitstimes.com/The-Big-Story/The-Big-Story-2/Story/STIStory_801606.html
[9] Low Thia Khiang slams 'baseless attacks' at WP, http://sg.news.yahoo.com/wp-s-low--by-election-characterised-by-baseless-attacks.html
[10] Workers' Party wins 62.1% to retain Hougang seat, http://www.straitstimes.com/The-Big-Story/The-Big-Story-2/Story/STIStory_803725.html