Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong expects a tough fight at the coming election as he stressed that the country is at a turning point.
Speaking at a press conference hours after the close of nominations yesterday, PM Lee said he told the People's Action Party's (PAP's) candidates on Monday that "if you are in a PAP ward, fight as if you can lose".
"If you are in (an) opposition ward, fight with a conviction that you can win," said PM Lee, who is also the PAP's secretary-general.
"This is an election... where there is a lot at stake and where we have to take very seriously people's concerns, people's aspirations, their outlook in a new world, and also the way the election is going to be fought," he said, adding that the election was "very likely" one that would be "hard fought".
Earlier in the day, at the close of nominations, contests were confirmed in all 89 seats in Parliament, the first time since independence.
PM Lee also reiterated points he made recently about the high stakes at play for the country in the coming polls.
He said: "It's been an upward journey, it's been an exhilarating trip. Where do we now go? Continue up, level off or go down. And this is the election at the turning point which I have called to get a mandate, to decide with Singaporeans how we want to take the country forward."
He added: "You are choosing a government... which will run Singapore for the next five years. But it's more than that. You are really choosing also the team of leaders who are going to be around for many more terms if they are successful and can assure Singapore of a good government beyond me and my senior colleagues."
PM Lee said the election is about "looking at the direction for Singapore for the next 50 years" as well, noting that the country could continue to be a unicorn, a "miraculous animal" that is unique and successful in the world, or "become ordinary... just like everybody else".
Asked if the emphasis on municipal issues like the Workers' Party's management of its town council is distracting Singaporeans from national issues, PM Lee said that it is important for MPs to be able to manage towns.
"The system to make town councils the responsibility of elected MPs was a deliberate choice so that people who aspire to be the Government of Singapore will first be tested (in) running a town council and demonstrate that they are capable of administering, managing, leading and producing results to Singaporeans."
The Prime Minister also said the opposition's performance in Parliament was "disappointing", and that more opposition in the House was not necessarily better. Rather, it is the quality that counts, he said.
"When you go for election rallies, it's very easy to make fierce, rousing speeches. 'Put me into Parliament, I shall do this, that and the other.' But when (the opposition MPs) come to Parliament, none of those issues are raised, because they know that in Parliament, if they raise those issues... they will be pinned down and the fallacies and the insincerities and the untruths will be exposed," he said.
"So, you voted for a tiger in the chamber and you got a mouse in the House."
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