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Parties work the ground as hustings gather speed
THE first full day of campaigning on Wednesday saw most of the 192 candidates from the 11 political parties fan out across the island throughout the day to canvass support - both on the ground and in cyberspace.
Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong took to Facebook where he gave a 15-minute speech, reiterating to voters that Singapore needs the "best possible leadership" and a "solidly united population" to deal with the Covid-19 crisis.
Mr Lee, the secretary-general of the ruling People's Action Party (PAP), said the government that voters elect on Polling Day next Friday "will have its hands full" as it must continue to fight the virus and keep Singaporeans safe. "(The government) must save jobs and businesses so that our people can continue to make a living. It must persevere with our long-term plans so Singaporeans can still look forward to a better future," he said.
Mr Lee, who is again standing in Ang Mo Kio GRC, said the PAP has many long-term plans for the country, such as better pre-schools, affordable healthcare, new HDB estates and dealing with the effects of climate change.
"Capable government leadership is essential in this endeavour. But the leadership can only succeed if it wins the strong support of the people," he said. "Your support has been the PAP's greatest strength, and the PAP has never let you down."
A day after Nomination Day, much of the country's attention was on the constituencies likely to see a tough fight at the polls, including in East Coast GRC where all the chatter has been about Deputy Prime Minister Heng Swee Keat's move to be the anchor minister for the PAP team there.
Mr Heng's five-member group is all set to square off against a Workers' Party (WP) team that is entirely different from the line-up that the opposition party fielded at the last polls five years ago.
WP chief Pritam Singh described Mr Heng's move from Tampines GRC as the PAP springing an "element of strategic surprise".
"To us, we see it as a strong challenge, but also it says something about the PAP's assessment of the WP team in East Coast," he said during a morning walkabout at New Upper Changi Road with his party's East Coast candidates.
"(The PAP) sees our slate as a very strong one and they know they have to fight for every vote. We will put up the best fight as well, and I think our team will represent Singaporeans well in Parliament."
Mr Heng, the PAP's first assistant secretary-general who is poised to become Singapore's next prime minister, went on Facebook in the evening together with the rest of his East Coast team in their first online rally.
He spoke about the importance of people being able to master new skills or gain new knowledge, and added that having a job is necessary for people to fulfil their hopes and dreams.
"Many of you are aware that we put out four Budgets in 100 days this year, spending almost S$100 billion to make sure that we are able to support our workers in this severe period," he said.
When a resident asked Mr Heng about what could be done to help small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs) during the downturn, he pointed to the Jobs Support Scheme and the rental waivers that have helped many companies stay viable and afloat.
"SMEs are under great stress. I'm glad we have been able to reopen many businesses (since Phase 2 of the reopening following the 'circuit breaker'). We must all do our part to keep Singapore safe so that we can continue to reopen gradually and allow many more businesses to resume," he said.
Over in the WP-held Aljunied GRC, residents there had the chance to size up the five-person team from the PAP, which includes two election newbies.
Victor Lye from the PAP camp said the ruling party could not afford to be "on the sidelines" for another five years in that constituency, and that Aljunied has been "held hostage" for too long.
And in Sengkang GRC, which is also likely to be fiercely contested, the two groups of candidates - the WP team led by He Ting Ru and the PAP team led by anchor minister Ng Chee Meng - crossed paths at a food court where they exchanged brief pleasantries.
Some of the 17 single-seat wards are more closely watched than others, and one of those so-called "hot seats" is Bukit Panjang.
On Wednesday, the two candidates there - the PAP's Liang Eng Hwa and the Singapore Democratic Party's (SDP) chairman Paul Tambyah - were busy greeting and mingling with voters during their respective walkabouts.
Asked to assess his chances of winning, Dr Tambyah, a Professor of Medicine at the National University of Singapore, said: "It's not a level playing field, so it will be a miracle if I get elected, and it will be an incredible credit to the people of Bukit Panjang and the people of Singapore."
The evening prime time slot saw many parties jostling for air time and the attention of voters.
Candidates from four parties - Vivian Balakrishnan (PAP), Jamus Lim (WP), Chee Soon Juan (SDP) and Francis Yuen from the Progress Singapore Party - took part in a live televised debate.
They gave their take on jobs and the economy, what needs to be done to help businesses survive the economic recession, and the importance of social mobility, among other issues.
The WP held its first online rally called the Hammer Show on Facebook. The 40-minute programme was moderated by Mr Singh and chairman Sylvia Lim, and featured clips by several candidates including Nicole Seah and Gerald Giam.
They talked about the role of the WP in Singapore's political scene and explained the need for a healthy and sustainable opposition presence in Parliament.
The first of this election's two party political broadcasts will air on TV and radio on Thursday night, with the second batch on Cooling-off Day on July 9. A total of seven parties that have fielded the minimum of six candidates each are eligible for the airtime.
There will also be one-off constituency political broadcasts that will be shown on Channel 5 from July 3 to July 8, from 7pm each day.