It's back to Desmond Choo versus Png Eng Huat

People's Action Party candidate Desmond Choo (left) and Workers' Party candidate Png Eng Huat are set to contest in the by-election.

It's back to square one - the battle for Hougang's single seat has been whittled down to a straight fight between the People's Action Party's Desmond Choo and Workers' Party's (WP's) Png Eng Huat.

At one point, the contest looked to be between Mr Choo, 34; Mr Png, 50; and two other candidates - WP veteran Poh Lee Guan, 50; and hair-products seller Zeng Guoyuan, 59.

However, Dr Poh and Mr Zeng will not be contesting in the by-election.

Returning Officer Yam Ah Mee declared Mr Choo and Mr Png as candidates for the May 26 Hougang by-election to cheering supporters at the nomination centre at Serangoon Junior College (SRJC) yesterday.

Speaking first after the results were announced, Mr Choo spoke in Mandarin and English during his one-minute thank-you speech, with supporters crying out his name repeatedly.

Mr Choo urged residents to give him their vote and said the party has worked hard to serve them. Though he was unable to deliver his Teochew speech as his time was up, he later told the media it did not matter as there would be more chances to speak Teochew in the ward.

Many residents in Hougang speak Teochew.

Mr Png rallied his supporters in Mandarin, English and Teochew in his thank-you speech, calling on them to vote him into Parliament so that the WP can continue to be their voice.

In a call-and-respond fashion, WP supporters interjected with shouts of "huat ah", which means "let's prosper" in the Hokkien dialect. It was also a play on Mr Png's name.

Seeking the "mandate" of Hougang residents, Mr Choo told reporters: "I'm still going to be very focused on fighting for every single vote. I'm still going to work the ground hard, visit the markets, visit the blocks, wherever there are residents."

At the other end of the ring, Mr Png vowed to "preserve Hougang, where everything started for the WP".

The semi-retired businessman said that in subsequent elections since 1991, Hougang residents have "rejected" offers of upgrading "up to the tune of $100 million" because they wanted a voice in Parliament.

Mr Png was likely alluding to the 2006 election, when then PAP candidate Eric Low reportedly offered a $100-million, 10-year upgrading carrot to Hougang residents. However, WP's Mr Low Thia Khiang, who is the party's secretary-general, won the Hougang seat.

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