Twelve out of 29 constituencies delineated for the coming General Election have attracted the attention of more than one challenger to the incumbent, with Tampines GRC being the hottest – it is eyed by three opposition parties.
Horse-trading talks are scheduled for Friday (Jul 31) and negotiations look to be potentially complex for certain seats, because of the relationship between the so-called party-crashers and the opposition party that had worked the ground in that area for the 2011 elections.
For instance, Ms Jeanette Chong-Aruldoss, who joined the Singapore People’s Party (SPP), has staked her claim on Mountbatten SMC, which she contested on a National Solidarity Party (NSP) ticket in 2011. She left NSP in March after a failed challenge to the party presidency.
Potong Pasir SMC is another: The Democratic Progressive Party (DPP) led by Mr Benjamin Pwee wants in on the single seat that was held by veteran opposition figure and Singapore People’s Party (SPP) secretary-general Chiam See Tong until the last election. Mr Pwee quit the SPP in 2012, following a split within its ranks.
Opposition parties contacted said they would leave it till Friday’s talks to decide if they would give up their claims in order to avoid multi-cornered fights. Yet in the same breath, some have already said they would not budge on certain constituencies.
The Reform Party has also expressed unhappiness with the process. In a statement on its Facebook page on Monday, the party said it has “fundamental reservations” about a closed-door meeting of opposition parties to discuss where each would contest.
“Reform Party can hardly demand transparency and accountability of the PAP Government while not practising it ourselves. This kind of meeting is a denial of the fundamental democratic rights of the citizens,” it said.
Still, the party said it would attend the talks but called for the meeting to be postponed to next Monday because two of its key members have been called up for reservist training.
RP also urged parties not to field candidates for the sake of it, adding: “The Opposition has to change its ways. It is not enough to turn up every four or five years for a look-see or a photo opportunity. The residents live there every day, not just when the cameras come out.”
POSSIBLE MULTI-CORNERED FIGHTS
Based on the proclamations that opposition parties have been quick to make over the weekend, newly formed Singaporeans First and People’s Power Party have expressed interest in Tampines, where the NSP contested in 2011 and has said will do so again for the coming polls.
Four GRCs could see three-way tussles: Bishan-Toa Payoh, Tanjong Pagar, and Marine Parade, as well as the newly-created Marsiling-Yew Tee.
As for SMCs, seven out of 13 have multiple suitors. Besides Mountbatten and Potong Pasir, these are the newly carved out Bukit Batok, Fengshan and Macpherson, as well as Hong Kah North and Pioneer.
Contacted on Tuesday, NSP acting secretary-general Hazel Poa said the party chose its constituencies based on where it had done better in the 2011 elections, such as Marine Parade and Tampines GRCs.
“These are the areas we are interested in but ... the final place that we go to ... we don’t know ourselves yet until we have the discussion (on Friday),” she added.
SPP’s Lina Chiam said her party “will not back down” as they are committed to the constituencies that they are contesting in. “We have been spending a lot of time there ... I will not back down because we have worked the ground, so we will stay there and we have committed to it,” she said.
But Mrs Chiam said, as far as possible, her party will not wade into multi-way contests. As it stands, the SPP and DPP would cross swords in the Potong Pasir and Hong Kah North SMCs, and Bishan-Toa Payoh GRC.
DPP secretary-general Benjamin Pwee dismissed concerns over three-cornered fights, arguing that these happen only when “credible candidates” are put forward by all contesting parties. He cited the Punggol East by-elections in 2013, which had four parties contesting but ended up with the PAP and WP garnering the vast majority of the votes. The other two parties were RP and Singapore Democratic Alliance.
“CROWDED” POLITICAL FIELD
On whether the keen opposition interest in Tampines GRC was an indication that it was on shaky ground for the People’s Action Party, Tampines GRC MP Baey Yam Keng said that ultimately, it is for voters to judge how his team has fared. “Voters will also compare the teams that each contesting party has. I think it’s good for residents to have a choice. They have to make their own assessment,” he said.
On whether more multi-cornered fights is an inevitability in the coming elections, National University of Singapore (NUS) sociologist Tan Ern Ser said that given the number of political parties currently – there are nine – the political field “will get more crowded”.
“However, this does not mean that multi-cornered fights are inevitable, if the opposition parties are able to come to some agreement,” said Professor Tan.