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PRIME Minister Lee Hsien Loong sees a tough fight in this election, with Singapore's future riding on it.
"I wouldn't say this is an easy election," he said hours after it was officially confirmed that the ruling party will be challenged in all 89 seats that are up for grabs.
Speaking at an hour-long press conference at the People's Action Party's HQ, flanked by several of his ministers, he said: "There's a lot at stake and we have to take very seriously people's aspirations, concerns, their outlook in a new world and also the way in which the election is going to be fought. We take this as very likely a very hard-fought election."
He added: "I told the (PAP) candidates: 'If you're in a PAP ward, fight as if you could lose; if you're in an opposition ward, fight with the conviction that you can win'."
Mr Lee said the election is coming at a time when Singapore is not only celebrating its golden jubilee, but also doing soul-searching on where it should head in the next 50 years.
"It's not an exaggeration to say this, because this is 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?
"I have called this election to get a mandate, to get to decide with Singaporeans how we take the country forward," he said. "Therefore it's an election where there's a lot at stake."
He said that there was more to this election than picking a government to run Singapore for the next five years:
"You're choosing the team of leaders who're going to be around for many more terms if they're successful and can ensure Singapore (has) a good government beyond me and my senior colleagues," he said.
"This gets more urgent every day."
Mr Lee listed the three things the PAP wants Singaporeans to think about before they cast their votes: the government, leadership and the direction Singapore takes.
Asked whether the stress on municipal issues such as the Workers' Party's management of its town council is distracting voters from larger issues, he replied that it is important that Members of Parliament are able to run town councils because it is a measure of their ability to form the next government.
He added that this is how it works in other countries as well; in France, for example, those elected are simultaneously local and national politicians.
Referring to the questions now swirling around the Aljunied, Hougang and Punggol East Town Council (AHPETC), he said:
"I think AHPETC has got serious issues. Questions of governance, viability, propriety. More facts have come out over the last few days that the Workers' Party will have to address and explain."
He said it is regrettable that they haven't yet been addressed satisfactorily. "I think it's something voters will notice."
Asked whether he was afraid that pushing this issue could backfire on the PAP, he said:
"I think the town council is an issue. These are operational and tactical considerations. We'll find the best way to convey the gravity and importance of the subject to voters in a way they can understand."
Mr Lee said the opposition has been disappointing in that they have failed to raise in Parliament the issues they did in elections.
And this has been because they knew they would be pinned down and their fallacies and insincerities exposed, he said.
"So you voted for a tiger in the chamber and you got a mouse in the house. It's one of these Frankenstein monsters. Every day, it turns into a tiger, every night, it turns into a mouse."