PAP, opposition get into gear for general election

PAP, opposition get into gear for general election
PAP organising secretary Ng Eng Hen said the party had decided to deploy its new faces in their constituencies as early as possible.

SINGAPORE - Political parties lost no time in spelling out their plans for the coming general election just two days after new electoral boundaries were set.

The People's Action Party (PAP) said almost all its candidates were already on the ground and would be formally named some time after National Day.

The Workers' Party (WP) said it would contest 28 of the 89 seats, and several other opposition parties named the constituencies they were eager to contest, as politicians from all sides went out in force to make the most of a Sunday to reach out to potential voters.

But PAP organising secretary Ng Eng Hen sought to put the next general election, which many expect to be called weeks after Aug 9, in perspective before "the heat of the hustings" begins.

He said the party had decided to deploy its new faces in their constituencies as early as possible so that voters have time to assess for themselves the calibre of candidates.

The PAP was doing so to reduce the element of chance and to improve the level of politics here, he told reporters in his Bishan-Toa Payoh GRC after handing out National Day funpacks to residents.

"As far as possible, we want to give residents as much information and first-hand experience with those who are going to take care of them in the next five years," said Dr Ng.

There is a political risk to deploying candidates early, he noted.

"Other parties may not choose to play it this way and can game it to their advantage," he added. "But we did this because we think this is ultimately a better type of politics that the PAP wants for Singapore."

Where possible, retiring PAP MPs will also introduce their successors. New faces were introduced by ministers in the past. The new format is more deliberate and dignified and will ensure a smooth transition, said Dr Ng.

The early rollout of new faces came about partly in response to feedback from residents that many PAP candidates were "parachuted" in just before the 2011 General Election. More importantly, the PAP does not want Singapore to go down the path of countries where politics is said to be becoming more and more like a lottery, said Dr Ng, who is also the Defence Minister.

In such places, voters are unsure of what they have chosen, parties make outlandish promises, and mudslinging occurs during election campaigns, he said. If Singapore went down this route, it would dissuade good people from entering politics, which would not be good for the country, he added.

Dr Ng said the PAP has also told its candidates not to engage in negative campaigning, but added that this does not preclude pointing out the flaws of other parties and their proposals, although personal attacks should be avoided.

He added that the coming election would be a "watershed" one, being the first since the death of former prime minister Lee Kuan Yew in March.

Opposition parties, meanwhile, expect to contest all 89 seats.

WP chief Low Thia Khiang said his party would focus its efforts on the east, as it did in 2011, while Singapore Democratic Party chief Chee Soon Juan said his party would similarly concentrate on seats in the north-west.

The National Solidarity Party will host a meeting of opposition parties on Friday to ensure they contest every seat and avoid multi-cornered fights, which are seen as advantageous to the PAP.

This article was first published on July 27, 2015.
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