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For the first time, a fight for every seat

In Singapore's general election on Sept 11, 26 constituencies will see straight contests between PAP and one opposition party; remaining 3 SMCs will witness three-way battles

PM Lee (above, with his Ang Mo Kio GRC team) said "there's a lot at stake because this is an SG50 election. The country is at a turning point."
In a message, Mr Low (front, centre) thanked voters who had supported the WP's call four years ago to move Singapore towards having a first-world Parliament.


HISTORY was made on Tuesday when a contest was declared for all the 29 constituencies for the Sept 11 general election (GE), ensuring that there was no walkover declared on Nomination Day for the first time in Singapore since Independence.

There were a couple of close shaves - involving the opposition parties Singaporeans First (SingFirst) and the Reform Party (RP) - when there were lapses in their nomination forms, but these were fixed in time to prevent their teams from getting disqualified.

Otherwise, the Nomination Day proceedings - held at nine schools across the country - largely stuck to the script.

A total of 26 constituencies will see a straight fight between the ruling People's Action Party (PAP) and one opposition party.

The remaining three - the single- member constituencies (SMCs) of MacPherson, Radin Mas and Bukit Batok - will witness a three-way battle for votes. At the last GE in May 2011, there was just one multi-cornered fight, for the single seat in Punggol East.

While several independent hopefuls turned up at the nomination centres, only two managed to clear all the hurdles. They are blogger Han Hui Hui, who will contest in Radin Mas; and businessman Samir Salim Neji, who is standing in Bukit Batok.

Also significant is the fact that the residents of Tanjong Pagar will finally get a chance to cast their ballots since it became a group representation constituency (GRC) back in 1991.

The PAP was the only one among the nine political parties to field a candidate for all 89 available seats. The party had previously announced where each of them would be fielded, and there were no last-minute swaps.

The Workers' Party (WP), meanwhile, stuck to its game plan of sending 28 people to contest in five GRCs and five SMCs.

As expected, the opposition party's top two leaders - secretary- general Low Thia Khiang and chairwoman Sylvia Lim - stayed put in Aljunied GRC along with fellow incumbents Pritam Singh, Chen Show Mao and Faisal Manap.

The Singapore Democratic Party's (SDP) chief Chee Soon Juan confirmed his candidacy in Holland-Bukit Timah GRC - a personal triumph of sorts for the 53-year-old as he will get to take part in a GE for the first time in 14 years, having missed out on the last two polls due to his status as a bankrupt then.

After the Returning Officer declared a contest in all the constituencies, the various parties quickly got down to business as the first day of campaigning began.

Posters bearing the candidates' faces were quickly put up on lampposts around the country. Most of the candidates shuttled back to their respective constituencies to continue their punishing schedule of house visits and walkabouts to meet as many residents as possible.

At a press conference held at the PAP's headquarters in Bedok, Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong said there was much at stake in this GE, which is taking place just a month after Singapore celebrated its golden jubilee.

"Will we remain special, or become ordinary just like everyone else? It is not at all inconceivable that we can become quite ordinary like any other country," said the PAP secretary-general.

He added: "This is a general election and the future of the country is at stake. There's a lot at stake because this is an SG50 election. The country is at a turning point. The question is, what direction will we go on now? Where do we now go? Continue up, level off or go down?"

Mr Lee, who has been a Member of Parliament since 1984 and is Singapore's third prime minister, stressed that he had called an election at this "turning point" to decide with citizens how they want to take Singapore forward.

Voters will be doing more than just bringing in the next government to run Singapore for another five years, he said.

"You are choosing the team of leaders who are going to be around for many more terms if they are successful, and can ensure Singapore a good government beyond me and my senior colleagues. This gets more urgent every day," said Mr Lee.

Mr Low, the WP chief, did not address supporters at the nomination centre but instead posted a lengthy message on the party's website.

He thanked voters who supported the WP's call to move Singapore towards having a first-world Parliament four years ago, adding that the government today is more responsive and sensitive to the needs and struggles of the people.

"The ruling party has also openly admitted that the Cabinet has shifted more to the left to be more focused on the livelihood concerns of ordinary Singaporeans," he wrote.

Mr Low also commented on the party's management of its Aljunied- Hougang-Punggol East Town Council, which has come under much flak by the government for the way in which the town council handled its finances.

He insisted that the WP had managed its town council well, apart from a number of "procedural and accounting lapses pointed out in the Auditor-General's report, which by now have mostly been addressed".

The other important aspects of town management such as cleanliness, lift breakdowns and maintenance are comparable to other town councils, he said.

With the nine-day campaign period in full swing, attention now turns to the election rallies that will be held daily until Sept 9.

The first two will be held on Wednesday evening - the PAP is organising one in Radin Mas, while the WP's rally will take place in Hougang.

The police announced a list of 46 rally sites for the 29 constituencies, most of which are stadiums and open fields. Parties can also opt to hold a lunchtime rally at the promenade area beside UOB Plaza in Raffles Place.

More about the Singapore General Election here.