Opposition chiefs start talks to avoid 3-cornered fights

Opposition chiefs start talks to avoid 3-cornered fights
Dr Ang Yong Guan (left) from SingFirst shaking hands with Mr Steve Chia from NSP during their walkabouts in Tampines on July 26, 2015.
PHOTO: The Straits Times

Opposition party leaders have started talks to iron out possible constituency clashes in the next general election, ahead of their scheduled meeting on Monday.

The aim is to avoid three-cornered fights, especially in Group Representation Constituencies (GRCs), which will benefit only the People's Action Party (PAP), said Singaporeans First (SingFirst) chief Tan Jee Say.

He has reached "some kind of understanding" with the leaders of the other parties that are eyeing the same area as his party, he said.

Since the electoral boundary changes were made public on July 24, the opposition parties have indicated where they will field their candidates.

The result: at least six GRCs and six Single-Member Constituencies (SMCs) could see three-cornered fights.

The GRCs are Bishan-Toa Payoh, Marine Parade, Marsiling-Yew Tee, Pasir Ris-Punggol, Tampines and Tanjong Pagar; the SMCs are Bukit Batok, Fengshan, Hong Kah North, MacPherson, Mountbatten and Potong Pasir.

People's Power Party secretary- general Goh Meng Seng, who has also spoken to other party leaders, said three-cornered fights would likely be avoided.

"I think most political parties' leaders are sensible people. Opposition supporters are against three- cornered fights, so it will affect a party's standing if it insists on going head to head with another opposition party," he said.

On Thursday, the Singapore Democratic Party (SDP) said it would not stand in Tanjong Pagar GRC, although it declared earlier this year that it would. Party activist Paul Tambyah said the SDP would focus on the areas it contested in 2011, like Holland-Bukit Timah GRC.

Separately, The Straits Times understands that SingFirst has reached a gentleman's agreement with the SDP not to contest Holland-Bukit Timah GRC. Mr Tan was part of the SDP team in the GRC in the 2011 General Election.

Singapore Democratic Alliance leader Desmond Lim and National Solidarity Party president Sebastian Teo have been in touch with other leaders but have reached no firm agreement, he said.

Mr Teo said the serious negotiations will take place at Monday's meeting, which his party will host.

The Straits Times understands that opposition parties have an unwritten rule to stay away when a party leader stands in an SMC.

The Workers' Party is typically given a wide berth as well, since it "has the highest chance of winning", said a party leader who did not want to be named.

Other than these two situations, "there is no binding rule, we are there in good faith", said Mr Lim.

Mr Teo did not think all the issues could be resolved with one meeting."The aim of the meeting is to hopefully solve as many of the problems as possible."

This article was first published on August 1, 2015.
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