More women join Parliament as Singapore voters seek diversity

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(July 15): A higher number of women will become lawmakers in Singapore after last week’s general elections, setting the stage for fresh perspectives on topics ranging from jobs and families to climate change in this trade-reliant nation that has slumped to a recession.

With 27 female politicians voted in as members of parliament, an increase from 21 in the last polls in 2015, women will now account for 29% of the 93 elected seats. Their entrance may herald a shift in the city-state’s traditionally male-dominant political landscape -- there were only three women in the 19-member cabinet before the July 10 elections.

While some of the country’s incumbent ministers saw a close contest for re-election in their districts, there was a notably strong showing from the younger generation of politicians in both camps. In particular, the women who won championed issues such as increasing support for the elderly, youth empowerment and the environment, among others. Their inclusion in parliament may see them diversifying the public discourse and shaping key policies to come.

The ruling People’s Action Party won yet another majority at the polls, though this time, with less support from the masses. The Workers’ Party clinched a record 10 seats in parliament, signifying the most elected opposition representation the country has seen in its 55 years of independence.

Here are some women to watch in Singapore’s shifting political scene:
From the People’s Action Party

1. Gan Siow Huang, 46, is the first woman to achieve the rank of brigadier-general in the Singapore Armed Forces. This is the same military rank that has been held by current Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong and Speaker of Parliament Tan Chuan-Jin. Gan, who won her first-ever election in a newly created district, resigned from a top role at the country’s air force earlier this year after more than 25 years in service where she started as an air traffic controller. The mother of three is currently the deputy chief executive of the National Trades Union Congress’ Employment and Employability Institute. She has said she would like to help create better policies to support the elderly and those seeking employment.

2. Nadia Ahmad Samdin, 30, was part of Prime Minister Lee’s team which won re-election and was the youngest candidate to be fielded by the ruling party. A former current affairs television producer, she is presently a lawyer and associate director of TSMP Law Corp. Nadia, who is a recreational diver and can speak three of the country’s four main languages, has championed causes such as women and youth empowerment as well as environmental sustainability.

3. Tin Pei Ling, 36, triumphed at the polls, winning 71.7% of the votes in her district, among the highest candidate re-election margins in the party. She first entered politics in 2011 and was elected to parliament under a team led by former Prime Minister and Emeritus Senior Minister Goh Chok Tong. As one of the youngest candidates to be slated at that time, Tin initially came under intense scrutiny and criticism for her age and political inexperience. Her interests lie in supporting young families and the elderly.
From the Workers’ Party

1. He Ting Ru, 37, helped her four-person team to victory in a newly created district in north-east Singapore, securing a second group constituency for the opposition. The Cambridge-educated mother of two has pushed for policies to develop a more inclusive education system and to provide support to unpaid workers such as caregivers. Prior to running as a candidate in 2015, she practiced law in London and Frankfurt.

2. Raeesah Khan, 26, will become the youngest elected member of parliament in this election after her team won their district vote. Khan, who ran alongside He, sparked controversy during the election campaign when she had to publicly apologize for “insensitive” remarks made on her social media which alleged that minorities faced mistreatment in Singapore. Despite the incident, the activist and founder of the Reyna Movement, an organization aimed at empowering marginalized women and children, received significant support online.

3. Nicole Seah, 33, first stepped into the political arena in the 2011 election, when her team challenged former prime minister Goh under the banner of another opposition party. Though Seah’s team narrowly failed to wrest control of the East Coast district contested by current Deputy Prime Minister Heng Swee Keat and four other PAP members, she remains immensely popular online. She has about 48,000 followers on Instagram, with many supporters praising her charisma and eloquence. Seah has said she wants to tackle issues of inequality and support upward social mobility for Singaporeans.