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Next GE will be "a deadly serious fight"

PM Lee tells PAP members they "must win the election, and win convincingly"

THE battle cry for Singapore's next general election has been sounded.


THE battle cry for Singapore's next general election has been sounded.

Rallying some 6,000 members of his party for the coming battle, Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong on Sunday warned that it will be "a deadly serious fight".

"We must fight to win every seat and vote to be given the mandate to serve Singapore," he said at a People's Action Party's conference wrapping up its 60th anniversary celebration.

"We must win the election, and win convincingly."

Indicating that Sunday's big powwow "will likely" be the ruling party's last before the general election, which must be held by January 2017 at the latest, the PAP's secretary-general said the next poll "will be about who forms the government, not how many seats the Opposition gets".

"It will be about whether we continue to have a First World Government, not about First World Parliament," he said.

The vision of a First World Parliament set out by the Workers' Party in the last general election in 2011 has turned out to be an empty promise, according to Mr Lee.

"Every seat - every GRC, every SMC - will be a national contest, not a local one (in the next general election)," he said. "Every seat a general election, not a by-election."

Mr Lee said only the PAP truly cares for Singaporeans and the future of their children and grandchildren.

"The Opposition does not see any duty to bring people together, solve problems and plan for the future," he said.

"Every time we put out a popular policy, they say 'Do more'," Mr Lee pointed out. "But they do not say how. They do not say whom they will take from in order to give more."

He noted that the Opposition do not articulate any vision for Singapore, because they say they cannot form the government. "They dare say that because they are trying to avoid answering hard questions until they get elected," he said.

The Opposition tells voters to vote them in to check on the PAP and make the Prime Minister and his team work harder, Mr Lee indicated. "If everyone accepts what they say, we will only have politicians checking each other - and gridlock like in other countries."

He said there's no escaping the truth: "For every one more 'checker' we have in Parliament, there will be one less 'doer, thinker and leader' in the government to serve the nation, to serve the people.

"Eventually, there will be no PAP to check, no able team of ministers working and solving problems for Singaporeans, no progress for Singapore. That will be the last check, because it will be checkmate for Singapore!"

According to Mr Lee, the PAP will reinforce its team further in the next poll. "We already have identified many promising candidates, including a few potential office holders."

And the party will field a balanced mix of candidates from the private and public sectors as well as "quite a number" of PAP activists.

"After the next general election, with the support of the voters, I will have a renewed, strengthened and more seasoned team of MPs and ministers," Mr Lee said. "Whoever succeeds me will most likely be among them.

His successor would not have the luxury of spending 20 years in politics before becoming prime minister, as he did. "But well before the end of the next term, we will have a younger, passionate and capable team, ready to take over the reins," Mr Lee said.

The PAP already has a new central executive committee (CEC) to lead the party for the next two years, as it gears up for the general election.

Party cadres on Sunday re-elected many of the CEC members to another two-year term, including Mr Lee, Deputy Prime Minister Teo Chee Hean and Deputy Prime Minister Tharman Shanmugaratnam.

Mr Teo is the party's first assistant secretary-general and Mr Tharman is the second assistant secretary-general.

The other members of the PAP's highest decision-making body elected on Sunday are party chairman Khaw Boon Wan, vice-chairman Yaacob Ibrahim, treasurer Lim Swee Say, assistant treasurer K Shanmugam and members Chan Chun Sing, Grace Fu, Gan Kim Yong, Heng Swee Keat and Tan Chuan-Jin.

These nine members, who are also Cabinet ministers, and Mr Lee, Mr Teo and Mr Tharman were the 12 nominees with the highest number of votes, picked from a shortlist of 19.

Parliament Speaker Halimah Yacob and Defence Minister Ng Eng Hen received the 13th and 14th-highest votes and were co-opted into the CEC.

No more than six members can be op-opted to form an 18-member CEC. It is understood that other nominees included Minister for Culture, Community and Youth and Second Minister for Communications and Information Lawrence Wong, Transport Minister Lui Tuck Yew, Environment and Water Resources Minister Vivian Balakrishnan, Senior Minister of State for Law and Education Indranee Rajah and Central Singapore District Mayor Denise Phua.