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IT looks likely that all but one of the 29 constituencies that will be contested at the upcoming general election (GE) will feature a straight fight between the ruling People's Action Party (PAP) and one opposition party.
This after the National Solidarity Party (NSP) announced on Monday that it would not field a team in Marine Parade group representation constituency (GRC) and the single seat of MacPherson in order to make way for the Workers' Party (WP). Later in the day, the Singaporeans First (SingFirst) party said that it was pulling out of the race to contest Ang Mo Kio GRC, leaving the Reform Party (RP) to go head-to-head with the PAP team in the GRC helmed by Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong.
There could still be one three-cornered fight, in the Potong Pasir single seat ward. The Singapore People's Party's (SPP) chairman Lina Chiam wants to contest there again, and she could be joined by independent candidate Tan Lam Siong, a former NSP secretary-general.
As things stand, all 89 seats will be contested at the GE. This would mean that, for the first time since independence, all eligible citizens - there are 2.46 million who can cast their ballots at the next GE - would be able to vote.
NSP acting secretary-general Hazel Poa described it as a "difficult" decision to withdraw from Marine Parade and MacPherson.
She said: "We recognise the voters' desire for greater opposition representation in parliament, where opposition parties got only 10 per cent of the seats despite garnering 40 per cent of (the) popular vote. Multi-cornered contests are likely to dilute opposition votes and reduce the chances of a more diverse parliament. We trust that WP will send in good candidates and give voters in these two constituencies a choice."
The NSP had contested in Marine Parade GRC at the last GE in May 2011, securing 43.4 per cent of the valid votes against the PAP team led by then-senior minister Goh Chok Tong. For the next GE, the NSP will only contest in Tampines and Sembawang GRCs as well as the single seat Pioneer ward.
WP chairman Sylvia Lim, in a post on her party's Facebook page on Monday, thanked the NSP for announcing its decision to withdraw early. She said that the WP would continue to focus on its preparations and campaign in the 10 constituencies that it had laid claim to last month.
As for Ang Mo Kio GRC, SingFirst secretary-general Tan Jee Say said that the party had opted not to contest the GRC for the same reason: to avoid a three-cornered fight.
This now paves the way for the Reform Party (RP) to run in Ang Mo Kio once more. It earned 30.7 per cent of the votes at the last GE. SingFirst will instead focus its resources on Tanjong Pagar and Jurong GRCs, said Mr Tan.
In a post on his Facebook page, RP secretary-general Kenneth Jeyaretnam thanked SingFirst for "graciously deciding" not to contest Ang Mo Kio.
"We hope that we can now form an alliance with them, NSP, SDP (Singapore Democratic Party), PPP (People's Power Party), SPP and SDA (Singapore Democratic Alliance) in our common objective of taking at least a third of the seats in this election," said Mr Jeyaretnam.