Plan for meeting to avoid split in opposition vote

Plan for meeting to avoid split in opposition vote
Mr Sebastian Teo, (center, standing) 68, President of National Solidarity Party, interacting with a resident during a walkabout around Tampines Street 81 on July 26 2015.

Opposition parties will meet on Friday to try and hammer out a deal on where they will field their respective candidates at the next general election.

The aim of the meeting is to avoid multi-cornered contests that will likely split the opposition vote in favour of the ruling People's Action Party, said Mr Sebastian Teo, president of the National Solidarity Party (NSP).

He told reporters at a party walkabout in Tampines GRC yesterday that the NSP is hosting the meeting this year, and will officially invite the other parties today.

Workers' Party chief Low Thia Khiang and Singapore Democratic Party chief Chee Soon Juan both pledged yesterday to avoid multi-cornered fights as far as possible.

Such meetings to decide how to parcel out constituencies began in 2006, and will be keenly watched again this time as many opposition parties have canvassed support in the same constituencies.

Yesterday, the NSP and the Singaporeans First party (SingFirst) ran into each other at the same marketplace in Tampines GRC.

At least nine opposition parties are likely to field candidates in the next elections, which will have 16 Group Representation Constituencies (GRCs) and 13 Single-Member Constituencies (SMCs).

An opposition party that contests a constituency in any general election has traditionally laid claim to that constituency in the subsequent general election.

But there are already many overlapping claims, making a collision inevitable if any of the parties refuses to budge. For example, the WP, the NSP and the year-old SingFirst have all expressed interest in Marine Parade GRC, where the NSP's team polled 43.4 per cent of the vote in 2011.

The upcoming election may also bring latent opposition rivalries to the fore.

The Singapore People's Party (SPP), led by opposition veteran Chiam See Tong, wants to run in Bishan-Toa Payoh GRC and Potong Pasir SMC, which it contested in 2011.

At the time, Mr Chiam ceded his candidacy in Potong Pasir, a seat which he held for 27 years, to his wife Lina - who lost by a wafer-thin margin of 114 votes.

The Democratic Progressive Party, which was dormant in 2011 and is now led by secretary-general Benjamin Pwee, is eyeing the two constituencies. Mr Pwee was an SPP candidate in 2011 but quit the party a year later.

SingFirst secretary-general Tan Jee Say said yesterday that, as a new party, it may be at a disadvantage because it has no history or prior election results to speak of.

But he added: "I hope parties will come with an open heart, and adopt a give-and-take attitude."

However, former Nominated MP Calvin Cheng said he disagrees with these horse-trading sessions: "Each opposition party stands for different things and different ideologies. It's very cynical for them to come together just to unseat the incumbent."

This article was first published on July 27, 2015.
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