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GE2020: PSP nominates Leong and Poa for the two Non-Constituency MP seats

DESPITE earlier reservations, Progress Singapore Party (PSP) assistant secretary-general Leong Mun Wai and vice-chairperson Hazel Poa will take up the two Non-Constituency Member of Parliament (NCMP) seats in Singapore's 14th Parliament. 

The choice of the pair to take up these posts was a unanimous decision among the West Coast team and later discussed with the PSP's executive committee, said party chief Tan Cheng Bock at a media conference on Tuesday.

Formerly a People's Action Party (PAP) Member of Parliament himself, Dr Tan had led the PSP's West Coast Group Representation Constituency (GRC) team, including Mr Leong and Ms Poa, in a close fight in what had traditionally been a PAP stronghold. But this was where the PAP eked out its narrowest win in this election. 

The final tally in the GRC showed PAP obtaining 51.7 per cent of the votes (71,545 votes), against the PSP's 48.3 per cent (66,871 votes). There were 1,645 rejected votes.

NCMP seats in Singapore are usually offered to the opposition candidates with the highest percentage of votes among the losers if the number of elected opposition candidates falls short of a stipulated number. A constitutional change in 2017 increased the maximum number of NCMP seats from nine to 12. With the Workers' Party having won 10 seats, two seats have become available for NCMPs.

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Mr Leong, 60, said he has "personal disagreements" with the NCMP scheme, but said he was "humbled" by the trust his party had placed in him to take up the seat. 

"Very importantly, the party now needs to represent the voters who voted for us," said Mr Leong, the founder of investment firm Timbre Capital. 

Ms Poa, 50, acknowledged that she also had initial reservations on the NCMP scheme, as she was afraid it would weaken the ability of the government to listen. "But the results of the election have demonstrated that my fears were unfounded. Voters can see what is at stake. I'm very much encouraged by the development, and the very good performance of the Workers' Party," she said. 

She entered politics a decade ago and was at one point secretary-general of the National Solidarity Party. 

The controversial NCMP scheme, introduced in 1984, came up again as a hot-button topic this election, with opposition leaders criticising it for crimping the democratic process in Singapore. Dr Tan, in particular, dismissed it as a "ploy" by the PAP to entice electors into voting only for the ruling party. 

Mr Leong and Ms Poa said they are looking forward to an opportunity to collaborate with the Workers' Party (WP) MPs as a constructive "alternative front". 

Pointing to comments that policies of various opposition parties are "more or less aligned", Mr Leong said: "While (the government) has also conducted its policies with very good intention, the results don't show. And a lot of the policies it is currently undertaking, from the alternative front's perspective and our party's perspective, we need to change those policies. We see a lot of room for WP and ourselves to collaborate."

Dr Tan said the PSP NCMPs will follow the lead of WP chief Pritam Singh, who was named Leader of the Opposition a day after the elections. 

At the polls, the ruling party scored 61.2 per cent of the popular vote, its second-lowest vote share since independence. The WP clinched a record 10 seats in Parliament – including the new Sengkang GRC. 

Commenting on the results, Mr Leong described Singapore as moving into a "new dawn" for political development. 

"What we are aiming for is constructive change in Singapore, so the result of this General Election, I think, will be very conducive, going forward, for that change."

Dr Tan added: "I notice the fear factor has been reduced now. There is less of a concern (among voters) that if they vote opposition parties in, this country is going to collapse. 

"We can still work together. We can share ideas. This is what we hope to promote, and I can see the change coming. And I hope that, in the years to come, we'll be all one citizen. Having different political views is okay, still enjoy sharing, arguing. This is the type of Singapore we want."

Asked about the party's plans to continue walking the ground, he quipped: "We are not the type who just come, we lose, then we run away. We will go to the ground. I will walk the ground, I will train all these young people on how to earn the votes."

For more of our Singapore GE2020 coverage, go to bt.sg/ge2020

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