Veteran politician Low Thia Khiang will not contest the impending General Election, according to Workers’ Party (WP) chief Pritam Singh. Mr Pritam confirmed that Mr Low is not retiring from the party, but would not be among the party’s 21 candidates contesting the six wards it has chosen to stand in.
Mr Low’s absence from the WP ticket this year marks the end of an era in Singapore politics. The WP’s immediate past secretary-general was Singapore’s longest-serving opposition parliamentarian, having seen six consecutive victories at the polls since he was first elected to Parliament in 1991, almost 30 years ago.
Mr Pritam’s confirmation on the matter of Mr Low’s candidacy comes days after WP members who spoke to the press on condition of anonymity said that Mr Low was considering retirement from politics even before he suffered a fall in April.
Mr Low had suffered a head injury after having a bad fall at his home on 30 April. The veteran politician was warded in the intensive care unit at Khoo Teck Puat General Hospital for five days before he was moved to a general ward. He was discharged on 21 May and is presently on hospitalisation leave.
His accident triggered speculation as to whether he would be fielded as one of the WP’s candidates in the upcoming election, which has been scheduled for 10 July. It is unclear whether Mr Low’s absence from the WP team this time is due to his health or other considerations.
Mr Low joined the WP in 1982 and was subsequently appointed as its Organising Secretary. At the 1984 general election, he was the election agent for the party’s secretary-general, J. B. Jeyaretnam, in his successful campaign to win Anson constituency.
After losing the 1988 General Election with 42.2 per cent of the vote, Mr Low won Hougang SMC in the 1991 General Election and entered Parliament. He was re-elected as MP for Hougang SMC in the 1997, 2001 and 2006 General Elections and became the Secretary-General of the Workers’ Party, replacing J. B. Jeyaretnam, in 2001.
Between 1997 and 2011, Mr Low and Singapore People’s Party leader Chiam See Tong were the only elected opposition MPs in Parliament. At the 2011 general election, both Mr Low and Mr Chiam left their seats in Hougang and Potong Pasir SMC respectively to contest in Aljunied GRC and Bishan-Toa Payoh GRC respectively, risking the fact that there will be no elected opposition MPs in Parliament.
Mr Low’s gamble paid off as he led the Workers’ Party to a historic breakthrough in the election, with a victory in Aljunied GRC. The win marked the first time ever that an opposition party had won a GRC, bringing an additional five Workers’ Party MPs into Parliament. His previous seat in Hougang SMC was also retained by the Workers’ party.
The WP won and retained their seats in Aljunied GRC and Hougang SMC during the 2015 General Election. Mr Low did not contest the WP’s internal election in 2018, after being at its helm for 17 years, and fellow Aljunied GRC MP Pritam Singh succeeded him as secretary-general.