What it takes to be an RP Candidate

Posted: 31st October 2010 By Kenneth Jeyaretnam

In my previous blog I told you that our recruitment drive had been so successful we were now seriously in danger of not having enough candidates for our new army of volunteers. Naturally this led to a rush of people wanting to know what was required in order to be a candidate.

Politicians are a strange breed so the first step is surely to ask yourself, “Why do I want to be one? “ If you’ve got a good answer to that then you have the desire to be a candidate. If you can add determination to that then you’re half way there already!

The selection process is aimed at ensuring that RP’s core belief in democracy is reflected in its candidates. RP has chosen to fight the constitutional battle in a democracy of elected representatives. This means we need to represent our people but also be representative of them. The biggest concern I find is that we Singaporeans often feel that we need to have first class degrees from ‘elite’ institutions or to be running Fortune 500 corporations to be considered. Not at all, in fact diversity and a good cross-section of candidates is key to the democratic process. RP is not aiming to build an ‘elite’ or to become PAP-Lite but to be a democracy, simple, accessible and open to all.

We are looking for people who share the party’s basic values, can explain and defend them, have passion, determination and an ability to connect with the ordinary voter. We will put such people above any bureaucratic system so we make the selection process as informal and non-daunting as possible. The party machinery and election campaign organisations are already in place so you will be given a lot of support through the process.

But there are 3 fixed requirements for a prospective candidate that we can’t get around.

A candidate must be:

  1. A Singaporean citizen,
  2. Of good character
  3. And an RP member

There is a host of other criteria such as a preferred minimum age of 30 and being able to speak and write well. But actually all of these are flexible. A younger, outstanding candidate will not be turned away.  We have a team of writers for those who are not confident in that area and in fact most skills such as public speaking can be nurtured or trained.  Heart and conviction however need to be there from the outset.

Let us not forget that the end goal of standing is sitting! That is to a take up a seat in parliament as an MP. This GE will definitely be the watershed one for the opposition parties so the chances of being elected have never been as high. Being a candidate requires a certain gravitas as MPs represent our Nation as well as the Party.

Continuing our policy of reflecting our values in our selection process I must add before we go any further, that RP does not discriminate by race, religion, gender or other identity. We are a liberal party and a secular one, inclusive of all Singaporeans and continually striving to achieve equality of opportunity.  I also strongly feel that democracy should not have a price tag on it, so there is no income level and minimum educational background requirement. If you fulfil every other requirement for being a candidate we will worry about the cost of your campaign –   although candidates will need to be able to demonstrate an ability to raise funds for their own deposit. (With the party’s help)

If you do go ahead and climb on board the TeamRP bus then you should know what you’re letting yourself in for. I will ask some TeamRP candidates and others at the war front on the campaign trail to share their experiences and stories with us in another blog. Meanwhile, my experience is that as well as the financial costs involved, being a candidate requires a heavy time commitment. The most successful candidates will have a good support system behind them. You’ll need the self discipline to maintain a balance and find time for family and relaxing as being in politics can be fascinating and all consuming.  Being in the public eye and subject to party discipline can also be stressful emotionally and physically. For example once accepted, in the run up to election, a candidate can no longer speak or appear in public as a private persona but is always an ambassador for the party and its values.

You may think you need bravery, selflessness, integrity. Well that helps but more than that you’ll need determination, a thick skin and an understanding family. I have also been told that a sense of humour helps although I don’t know what one of those is!

So have I put you off yet?  Not yet?  Then let’s continue. We have been through the RP selection criteria and you have found there is nothing to keep you from applying so what is the actual process?

Candidates are leaders and in RP we believe leadership is borne out of action. So naturally the first step is to demonstrate that action by approaching us. In the secret language of RP this is called, Standing Up! (Always with capitals and an exclamation mark) You may already be a member and have a preferred CEC member you’d like to approach. You can have an informal chat with any one of us or you could talk to one of our candidates and find out what it is actually like to be on TeamRP.  Even better, some of our CEC are also candidates allowing you to kill two birds with one stone. If you are not a member yet (and why is that?) then you probably have researched information on RP through our website and blog or followed our campaign in the media. Your next step should be to come to an Open House or walkabout -which is now organised three times a week -or send one of us a message. Tony Tan, CEC member and candidate is also Head of recruitment. He’d love to hear from you if you are thinking of joining.

Once you have got to know us, if you still want to be a candidate and a potential MP then the official selection process begins. There will be a questionnaire to fill in and you must be prepared to divulge some background information, any criminal record, any incidents that could embarrass the party and the usual personal details.

We also require a brief resume, verbal proposal by a current member and two letters of reference which cannot be from;

  • blood relatives or spouses
  • employees,
  • a person who owes you a debt financial or contractual.

All information will be treated sympathetically and with confidentiality but we will also conduct basic checks to verify it. So that’s it for the paperwork!

Jeannette who runs the free legal clinic is on the selection committee so ask to talk to her if you are concerned or indeed to any of Team RP.  If you need help with writing and presenting your resume we have people to help with that also.

The rest of the selection process will consist of us getting to know you through informal chats one on one or in small groups and we hope this will be a two way process. During the ‘getting to know you’ process we will be looking for evidence of experience or competence in some or all of the following;

  • leadership
  • Representing people or community
  • RP values in action
  • Knowledge of issues on the ground
  • Communication skills
  • Resilience
  • People skills.

This last is not a catch phrase but a real skill that is essential to fitting into a team as RPs core strategy is to contest GRCs first and foremost and candidates will not normally be able to choose what seat they stand in.

But these areas of competence don’t have to be within politics. Organising events in your community, caring for a special needs child or chronically ill relatives and juggling schedules, managing a team at work, social work, charity work, competing in sports are all valid. You are simply expected to be able to demonstrate from your life experiences that you have the necessary qualities and personality to be an RP candidate.

Successful candidates will often have a proven track record supporting party events or in grassroots organisations, charity work and similar. We discourage party hopping and the promotion of personalities but realise that as a new Party many of our team will have gained their experience in other parties initially.

In the interests of diversity we are particularly keen to promote women candidates and the Women’s Wing is there to support women through the selection process. In fact any candidate who feels that their community is not being represented or could be held back by our process should contact us for similar assistance.

The process should be a fascinating journey which brings out the best in you and one where you’ll meet some great people.  It will be hard work as you go through ‘trial by non upgraded block stairwell’ but if you believe as we do that RP is a force for change then your efforts will be well rewarded.  We in Team RP will share all the thrills and spills of the GE roller coaster with you and become brothers and sisters in arms. Whatever the outcome you’ll always be part of the RP family.

Still, there is no finer way of serving your country, in my humble opinion, and I look forward to standing shoulder to shoulder with you in the approaching GE and the ones to follow.

Kenneth Jeyaretnam

5 Responses to What it takes to be an RP Candidate

Justin Teo on

I love the part “The biggest concern I find is that we Singaporeans often feel that we need to have first class degrees from ‘elite’ institutions or to be running Fortune 500 corporations to be considered.”
Yes… for all those who can recall or have read, Lee Sr. and PAP fielded ordinary folks in their formative years. People who are:
1) Clerks
2) Dressmakers
3) Shop Assistants/Shop Keepers
4) Postmen
5) Farmers
6) Hairdressers
7) Stallholders
8) Social Workers
9) Electricians


i think this topic “What it takes to be an RP Candidate”
needs to be addressed in a video clip so that it has more
interaction .

kjeyaretnam on

We are looking into this.

wong fook seng on

more importantly, this topic and all the others should be translated into our 4 official languages to capture the heartlanders and the middle ground.

kjeyaretnam on

Our new pre-election pamphlet will be in three versions: English/Chinese, English/Malay and English/Tamil. We need more translators to step forward to help us translate the blog articles. We also need independent checkers to make sure nothing defamatory is slipped in without our knowledge like happened to my father with the WP newsletter.

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