Singapore elections a predictable affair? Hardly. A former television host, an animal rights activist and a former part-time model are among the fresh faces running for Singapore's general election this coming Friday.
The polls, dubbed the Southeast Asian city-state's most widely-contested election, will see the opposition parties fielding candidates for all 89 parliamentary seats for the first time since independence 50 years ago.
And among the 181 candidates, more than 70 are first-timers. Observers have noted that this development is markedly different from the slate of high-credentialed technocrats voters are used to.
In particular, the ruling People's Action Party has recruited two-thirds of its candidates from outside the public sector this time round, marking a stark contrast from the usual pool of former army generals, scholars and civil servants that have dominated the party's line-up in the past.
Here are the new faces to watch this time round.
Who: Darryl David
Representing: People's Action Party
Why you should know him: Best known as the host of popular television game show "The Pyramid Game" back in the 1990s, Darryl David is likely to be Singapore's first media personality to enter the political arena. Currently the deputy director of Temasek Polytechnic's School of Design, he is part of the ruling party's line-up in the Ang Mo Kio Group Representation Constituency (GRC) led by Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong.
According to the Singapore Elections Department, Single Member Constituencies (SMCs) are electoral divisions that have a single Member of Parliament representing the interests of those residents in the constituency.
Meanwhile, a GRC is a larger electoral division where Members of Parliament are voted into Parliament as a group. The scheme was put in place primarily to ensure minority representation in Parliament.
The 45-year-old of Chinese and Indian parentage told local newspaper Today that he believed 22 years of experience in the media industry, as well as his involvement in grassroots activities and ability to converse in Mandarin and the Hokkien dialect will come in useful.
If elected, he would champion issues related to childcare and the aging population and push for skills-based education to be implemented at the national level.
"My story is one of a simple boy with [a] simple need: access to a stable and secure system provided by the PAP. I had access to some of the best schools in the world without ever having to leave Singapore and that's why I'm standing here today. I stand because I am a product of this system," David said during his election campaign.
Who: Han Hui Hui
Representing: Independent candidate
Why you should know her: At 24, Han Hui Hui is one of the youngest candidates running in this year's elections.
Han is contesting in a three-way fight for the Radin Mas Single Member Constituency (SMC) against Sam Tan of the People's Action Party and Kumar Appavoo from the Reform Party.
Running as an independent candidate, Han's campaign is focused on reducing the cost of education, improving the unemployment rate, and making the public transport system more efficient. Han held her first rally on September 3, where she suggested the incumbent government did not do enough to prioritize the needs of Singaporeans over the expatriate community. In the interest of accountability, Han keeps an up-to-date record of her campaign-related spending on her blog.
Han's foray into politics began as an outspoken activist blogger and she has spoken at length against the Central Provident Fund (CPF) — Singapore's comprehensive, compulsory savings plan for citizens and permanent residents.
Some of Han's more ardent supporters have nicknamed her after the famous wrestler, Triple-H, as a play on her name.
Who: He Ting Ru
Representing: The Workers' Party
Why you should know her: The young and well-spoken corporate lawyer has been a topic of discussion even before she was formally introduced as a candidate, with many describing her as the next Nicole Seah – the opposition candidate from the National Solidarity Party who shot to prominence in the 2011 elections.
According to statistics provided by Twitter, the political newbie was the fifth most-mentioned politician in Singapore during August 24-31.
She pursued Natural Sciences in Cambridge before moving to London to do a program that converted her undergraduate degree to law. A lagging social support network for the elderly and the needy is one of the reasons why the 32-year-old decided to dip her toes into politics. She is part of the five-member opposition team contesting the Marine Parade GRC.
"I listened to the [Workers' Party's] rally speeches, heard their message, and I thought that they sounded responsible. I think they have something to add to Singapore," local broadsheet The Straits Times reported her as saying.
Who: Kevryn Lim
Representing: National Solidarity Party
Why you should know her: Kevryn Lim's unorthodox journey into politics has created quite a buzz in Singapore, with some welcoming her as a fresh face to the country's political landscape while others questioning her credibility as a politician.
Earlier this month, Lim revealed she has a three-year-old son. Her experience as a young, single parent raising a child in Singapore is one of the pegs to her election campaign for Sembawang GRC. In recent interviews, Lim said there aren't many policies in place to help single parent households. She promised to push for more inclusive policies to help single mothers, if elected to parliament.
Lim owns an events management and digital marketing company called EM.DM, which she founded earlier this year. She has worked in advertising, marketing, and the communications sector. As a student, Lim also picked up work experiences through part-time jobs in acting, modeling, and radio deejaying.
She obtained a diploma in fashion design and product development at the Chinese University of Hong Kong. She went on to attain a B.S. and an M.A. degree in Communication Studies from Curtin University in Australia, where she was co-founder of Curtin Student United Way, a youth-oriented global leadership program. Lim speaks four languages, as listed on her Linkedin profile: English, Mandarin, Cantonese and Spanish, in addition to the Hokkien dialect.
Who: Louis Ng
Representing: People's Action Party
Why you should know him: His background as an animal rights activist and being one of the few political candidates to come from a non-governmental organization (NGO).
Ng is the founder of Animal Concerns Research and Education Society (ACRES) and is also a member of the Animal Welfare Legislation Review Committee and the Multi-Stakeholder Collaboration Committee, where he assisted in drafting new animal protection legislation in Singapore.
However, the 37-year-old is not to be dismissed as a single-issue candidate.
Among his priorities are encouraging parenthood and volunteerism. "I want residents to help fellow residents. It's about empowering people, inspiring them and mobilizing them to come forth to serve," he said at a press conference held by the PAP on August 26.
Who: Saktiandi bin Supaat
Representing: People's Action Party
Why you should know him: "I'd like to see myself as a coconut palm tree."
Those are the words of Saktiandi bin Supaat, a new PAP candidate contesting for Bishan-Toa Payoh GRC in a recent interview. He also happens to be the head of global FX strategy at Maybank. Raised in a kampung (which means village in Malay), the 42 year-old hopes to contribute by attracting more help for disadvantaged families, single mothers and for ITE (Institute of Technical Education) and diploma-holders looking for jobs.
Rather than just being a coconut drink," he added, "I would like to be someone who can be of use to society in every aspect."
Describing himself as a family man, the father of three, who is known as Andi, began volunteering as a member of the youth wing of the Association of Muslim Professionals in 2004. He believes that a strong family unit is important for the foundation of a cohesive Singaporean society.
He has served in Bishan Toa Payoh GRC in Community Club Management Committees, as vice-chairman of the Toa Payoh East Citizens' Consultative Committee, and as a Bishan-Toa Payoh Town Councillor. Supaat obtained undergraduate and postgraduate degrees in economics, finance and business administration from Murdoch University, the University of Melbourne, the National University of Singapore and University of Cambridge.