Singapore, Jun 30 (PTI) Singapore's ruling People's Action Party (PAP) faces a tough challenge from the opposition parties in the general elections next week, Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong acknowledged on Tuesday, saying his party would have to fight for "every vote and win every heart" amidst the coronavirus pandemic.
The nomination day on Tuesday saw a total of 192 candidates from 11 parties, including the PAP, file papers to contest every seat in 17 Group Representation Constituencies and 14 Single Member Constituencies.
A total of 2.65 million people will vote on July 10 as voting is compulsory in the city-state.
This is the second general election that the opposition has fielded candidates in all 93 seats in Parliament.
In the last elections in September 2015, the PAP contested all 89 seats and won 83 seats, an absolute majority in the house. The Opposition Workers' Party secured six seats.
The PAP has been dominating Singapore's political landscape since late 1950s.
Prime Minister Lee's estranged brother Lee Hsien Yang, who recently joined the opposition Progress Singapore Party (PSP), announced on Tuesday that he will not compete for the polls.
Both the brothers are embroiled in a bitter dispute over family property.
On Tuesday, Prime Minister Lee said his party expects a tough fight because of the pain and uncertainty felt by people due to the coronavirus pandemic.
"(The opposition parties) have been active for the last few months, and we have seen which constituencies they have been interested in, where they have been campaigning harder. And what they have done is generally in line with what the tea leaves have shown," Lee was quoted as saying by The Straits Times.
"We try to make an assessment of where our most important contests may be, and where we can best re-deploy our chess pieces - so that in every constituency, we have a team which fits the needs of that constituency, and would be able to give good service to its residents and put up a good fight in the campaign. That is the reason for all of our deployments."
He said the opposition are well organised and prepared, and will not roll over. "The PAP will have to fight for every vote and win every heart," he said.
In response to a question, Lee acknowledged that opposition parties would nonetheless want to try "very hard” to win elected seats and not just have “high, good, losing results” in all the constituencies.
"Every constituency is contested, so this is not a by-election. It's a general election for the most important issues concerning the country at the moment of crisis," the prime minister said.
"I think everybody needs to understand that, everybody must have that in mind when they assess the votes," he said at the nomination centre at Deyi Secondary School.
Asked if he had a target in mind for the polls, Lee said he did not. "I never have a numerical target for an election. We go in, we give it our all, we fight for every vote. And when you open the ballot boxes, you will know how the voters have decided," he said.
Lee pointed out that a "significant opposition presence" is guaranteed in Parliament, regardless of what happens in the general election.
He said that the expanded Non-Constituency MP (NCMP) scheme now guarantees there will be 12 opposition members in Parliament, even in the event that the PAP wins all the seats. NCMP is appointed when a candidate loses the election but with a higher number of votes.
"NCMPs do have full voting rights, exactly the same as elected MPs. They can vote on budgets, they can vote on constitutional amendments, they can even vote on motions of confidence," Lee said.
"So, whatever happens, a significant opposition presence is guaranteed. There is no possibility of the opposition being shut out from Parliament."
But given this, Lee said Singaporeans should not vote for "compromise candidates" that would weaken the national team.
They should scrutinise the candidates and parties carefully, vote for the candidate or GRC team whom they think can do the best job for them in their constituency, and whose party will serve Singapore best if elected, he added.
“But as far as the Constitution is concerned, as far as Parliament's operations are concerned, there is no difference between NCMPs and elected MPs in terms of their rights and privileges,” he said.
The 2006 general election, the first led by Prime Minister Lee, saw the PAP get 66.6 per cent of the popular vote. The ruling party saw its vote share fall to 60.1 per cent in the 2011 election, but rebounded to secure 69.9 per cent of the vote in 2015.
(This is an unedited and auto-generated story from Syndicated News feed, LatestLY Staff may not have modified or edited the content body)