SINGAPORE: Nominations for the 2020 General Election closed on Tuesday (Jun 30), confirming contests in all 93 seats by 191 candidates from 11 political parties and an independent candidate.
Amid the crowded field of political parties, two constituencies - Pasir Ris-Punggol GRC and Pioneer SMC - will see three-cornered fights.
The People’s Action Party (PAP) is the only political party contesting seats in all electoral divisions although unlike in previous years, it kept its final line-ups for key constituencies under wraps until Nomination Day.
Among the opposition forces, the Workers’ Party (WP) - the major opposition party here and the only one with Parliament seats - is gunning for 21 seats in four group representation constituencies (GRCs) and two single member constituencies (SMCs).
But it is newcomer Progress Singapore Party (PSP), founded by former Member of Parliament (MP) Tan Cheng Bock, that is fielding the largest number of opposition candidates - 24 candidates in four GRCs and five SMCs.
Candidates dressed in party colours and accompanied by their endorsers began arriving at the nine nomination centres across Singapore from about 10am. But while the day’s proceedings went on as per previous years, it was clear that GE2020 was different.
With safe distancing guidelines in place, gone were the huge entourages that usually accompanied candidates to the nomination centres. Without supporters, the nomination centres were unusually quiet. Everyone wore masks, went through temperature screenings and tried to keep a safe distance from one another.
But even though the day’s atmosphere was down a notch, there were still some surprises.
For instance, PAP made a surprise move by fielding Deputy Prime Minister Heng Swee Keat in East Coast GRC.
Mr Heng’s move from Tampines to East Coast was only confirmed late Tuesday morning with about 30 minutes to go before nominations closed at noon, when he appeared at the St Anthony’s Canossian Primary School nomination centre.
"We cannot afford a gap in East Coast in these uncertain times," said Mr Heng, after his candidacy was confirmed. "We need a full team that can take care of the residents and position them to come out of this crisis stronger than before."
READ: 'We cannot afford a gap in East Coast in these uncertain times': Heng Swee Keat on moving to the GRC
Apart from Mr Heng, who is taking over from former Manpower Minister Lim Swee Say, the PAP slate at East Coast GRC comprised Senior Minister of State Maliki Osman, Ms Cheryl Chan, Ms Jessica Tan and first-time candidate Mr Tan Kiat How.
They will be facing a challenge from WP, whose team includes Ms Nicole Seah, Mr Kenneth Foo, Mr Dylan Ng, Mr Terence Tan and Mr Abdul Shariff Aboo Kassim.
Over in West Coast GRC, PAP’s line-up was also shored up with the addition of Minister for Social and Family Development Desmond Lee, who moved over from Jurong GRC.
Mr Lee joins Minister for Communications and Information S Iswaran, Ms Foo Mee Har, Mr Ang Wei Neng, as well as new face Rachel Ong.
PAP’s firm grip on West Coast GRC is expected to be tested by the PSP team, led by Dr Tan who was the MP for Ayer Rajah for 26 years when he was with the ruling party. The ward is now part of West Coast GRC.
READ: GE2020: PSP team led by Tan Cheng Bock to contest West Coast GRC against PAP team with S Iswaran, Desmond Lee
When asked after the announcement of his team's candidacy if he felt that Mr Lee's addition to the PAP slate was due to the perceived threat of the PSP, Dr Tan said: “It's their way. I'm not going to question why they do that.
He added that it was "quite good" that PAP is "trying to put their heavyweights" to contest the GRC.
In another surprise on Nomination Day, Singapore Democratic Party (SDP) chairman Paul Tambyah confirmed his candidacy in Bukit Panjang SMC.
Dr Tambyah had been expected to lead SDP’s Holland-Bukit Timah team this time round, having contested there in 2015 too.
He will face PAP’s Liang Eng Hwa, who is also a new face to the ward. Mr Liang replaces Dr Teo Ho Pin, who has been MP for the single-seat ward since 2006 after it was carved out of the former Holland-Bukit Panjang GRC.
When asked why he decided to run for the SMC, Dr Tambyah said: “We need to find the best candidate for the best location for the best outcome for the people.”
It was a “collective decision” made by SDP's central executive committee and he had abstained from the vote. He added that SDP has been engaging residents in Bukit Panjang for many years and are "very familiar" with them.
PEOPLE’S ACTION PARTY
PAP will be facing a battle in every constituency, with the team led by Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong in Ang Mo Kio up against the Reform Party (RP).
Mr Lee’s team includes former MPs Darryl David and Gan Thiam Poh, as well as new faces Ng Ling Ling and Nadia Samdin. Former MPs Intan Azura Mokhtar and Ang Hin Kee will be retiring from politics.
Speaking to reporters after the nomination, Mr Lee said: ““This time, we are taking it very seriously … every constituency is contested.
“This is not a by-election, it’s a General Election for the most important issues concerning the country at this moment … everybody must have that in mind.”
In the 2015 General Election, PAP won Ang Mo Kio - then a six-member GRC - with 78.64 per cent of the vote against the Reform Party.
With Mr Heng leaving Tampines to helm East Coast GRC, Environment and Water Resources Minister Masagos Zulkifli will lead PAP’s slate in Tampines.
Senior Minister of State for Trade and Industry Koh Poh Koon will join the team, alongside Senior Parliamentary Secretary Baey Yam Keng, Mr Desmond Choo and Ms Cheng Li Hui who represented Tampines in 2015.
Later at a doorstop, Mr Masagos said that PAP has fielded a “strong” team in Tampines.
“While we are sad to see DPM (Heng Swee Keat) leave … we are here for the residents and we will build on the guidance that he has given us,” he added.
Minister for Manpower Josephine Teo will lead the PAP team in Jalan Besar, facing candidates from the Peoples Voice party. If elected, Mrs Teo will become the first female minister to helm a GRC.
The PAP team also includes Senior Minister of State for Defence Heng Chee How, Ms Denise Phua and new candidate Wan Rizal Wan Zakariah.
READ: GE2020: Manpower Minister Josephine Teo to lead PAP team against Peoples Voice in Jalan Besar GRC
Pasir Ris-Punggol is the only GRC that will see a three-cornered fight this General Election. Candidates from PAP, the Singapore Democratic Alliance (SDA) and the Peoples Voice party were confirmed on Nomination Day.
Senior Minister and Coordinating Minister for National Security Teo Chee Hean will helm the team, alongside party whip Janil Puthucheary and three new candidates - Mr Desmond Tan, Ms Yeo Wan Ling and Mr Sharael Taha.
The PAP team in this GRC is seeing plenty of changes, with Mr Zainal Sapari and Mr Teo Ser Luck, who were fielded in 2015, not running in this election. Mr Ng Chee Meng will be helming Sengkang GRC and Ms Sun Xueling will be standing by herself in Punggol West SMC.
When asked by reporters about the three-cornered fight, Mr Teo said that they “welcome all who are contesting”. He added that his team will “work very closely” with the new Punggol West SMC to “make sure that the town council and its finances are well managed”.
READ: GE2020: Pasir Ris-Punggol only GRC with three-cornered fight, involving PAP, SDA and Peoples Voice
PROGRESS SINGAPORE PARTY
PSP, founded by Dr Tan last year, is contesting four GRCs (West Coast, Nee Soon, Tanjong Pagar and Chua Chu Kang) and five SMCs (Hong Kah North, Pioneer, Yio Chu Kang, Kebun Baru and Marymount) with 24 candidates.
Prior to Nomination Day, there was much speculation about whether its member Lee Hsien Yang, who is Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong’s younger brother, will be running as part of the PSP’s team for Tanjong Pagar GRC. That was put to an end on Tuesday when he was not fielded as a candidate.
At Tanjong Pagar GRC, the PSP slate is made up of Mr Michael Chua, Mr Harish Pillay, Ms Wendy Low, Mr Terence Soon and Mr Abas Kasmani.
They will be facing the PAP team led by Minister for Trade and Industry Chan Chun Sing.
Mr Chua said in the spirit of competition, PSP wants to give Singapore and Tanjong Pagar residents a choice between two “very good teams”.
Over in Marymount SMC - a newly formed ward carved out of Bishan-Toa Payoh GRC - PSP’s Ang Yong Guan will face off with PAP’s first-time candidate Gan Siow Huang.
Dr Ang contested as a Singapore Democratic Party candidate for Holland-Bukit Timah GRC in 2011 and the now-dissolved Singaporeans First in Tanjong Pagar GRC in 2015. His opponent, Ms Gan, became the first female general in the Singapore Armed Forces (SAF) in 2015.
Speaking at the close of the Nomination Day proceedings, Dr Ang urged voters to deny the PAP a two-thirds majority in Parliament.
"Send 32 of us, PSP (candidates) and other alternative party (candidates) into Parliament. For country, for people, you deserve better.”
As with the past two elections, the battle for Aljunied GRC - Singapore’s only opposition-held GRC - will be one to watch with WP and PAP set to go head to head again.
WP made history in 2011 by wresting the five-member GRC from the ruling PAP. The opposition party held on to the constituency at the 2015 polls, but with a narrower vote margin of 50.96 per cent.
For this election, analysts are expecting a close tussle again, especially as WP stalwarts – former party chief Low Thia Khiang and Mr Chen Show Mao - have made way for new candidates.
The incumbents - WP chief Pritam Singh, party chair Sylvia Lim and vice-chair Faisal Manap – are joined by former Non-Constituency Members of Parliament (NCMPs) Leon Perera and Gerald Giam.
PAP is fielding the same team as in 2015, with the exception of two new faces.
Speaking to reporters after their candidacies were confirmed, Mr Singh said he was confident that both Mr Perera and Mr Giam would do well as they are “excellent people”.
“Both of them have proven to be very capable NCMPs, They are prepared to take on ministers in Parliament. More than that, I think they are very effective on the ground. They reach out to people, they speak humbly, they approach people and they are not afraid to raise the issues that are faced by our residents to the party leadership for us to bring their voices into Parliament,” he said.
READ: GE2020: DPM Heng contesting in East Coast GRC an ‘important signal’ that PAP takes WP’s challenge seriously, says Pritam
Another tight race is set to happen in Sengkang GRC, which will see another straight fight between WP and PAP.
Formed earlier this year, the new constituency has more than 120,000 voters and is made up of the former single seats of Sengkang West and Punggol East, as well as the Sengkang Central ward of Pasir-Ris Punggol GRC. The areas under the new GRC are Compassvale, Rivervale and Anchorvale.
WP’s line-up comprised three first-time candidates – Mr Jamus Lim, Ms Raeesah Khan and Mr Louis Chua – and Ms He Ting Ru who ran under the WP ticket in Marine Parade GRC in 2015.
They will be going up against a team led by Minister in the Prime Minister’s Office Ng Chee Meng.
WP's Mr Lim said that his team was honoured to contest the GRC, and that they were looking forward to meeting and engaging residents through as many channels as possible. He urged residents to “make your vote count”.
Beyond Aljunied, Sengkang and East Coast GRCs, WP is also gunning for seats in Hougang and Punggol West SMCs, as well as five-member Marine Parade GRC.
SINGAPORE DEMOCRATIC PARTY
Aside from Bukit Panjang SMC, SDP will field candidates in Marsiling-Yew Tee GRC, Holland-Bukit Timah GRC, Bukit Batok SMC and Yuhua SMC. This brings the total number of SDP candidates fielded to 11.
SDP chief Chee Soon Juan will face PAP’s Murali Pillai in a repeat of the 2016 Bukit Batok SMC by-election.
“This election is about choosing the candidate to represent you in Parliament, choosing somebody on a full-time basis, and I’ll show you in the coming days how my opponent in Bukit Batok has not lived up to his promises and this is going to be a major issue in Bukit Batok,” said Dr Chee after confirming his candidacy.
In Marsiling-Yew Tee, SDP will face PAP for a second time with a team comprising Mr Bryan Lim, Mr Damanhuri Abas, Mr Benjamin Pwee and Mr Khung Wai Yeen.
They will challenge a team led by Minister for National Development Lawrence Wong, alongside Minister of State Zaqy Mohammad, backbencher Alex Yam and newcomer Hany Soh.
SDP newcomer Robin Low will go up against Minister for Culture, Community and Youth Grace Fu for the single seat in Yuhua.
PEOPLES VOICE AND NATIONAL SOLIDARITY PARTY
Peoples Voice party chief Lim Tean, Mr Leong Sze Hian, Mr Michael Fang Amin and Mr Azlan Sulaiman will face PAP in Jalan Besar.
The party has also fielded Mr Gilbert Goh, Mr Mohamed Nassir Ismail, Mr Jireh Lim, Mr Prabu Ramachandran and Ms Vigneswari Ramachandran in Pasir Ris-Punggol GRC.
“Peoples Voice is a new political party. But we’re not a stupid, irresponsible or troublemaker party,” said Mr Jireh Lim, speaking reporters at the St Anthony’s Canossian Primary School nomination centre.
“The PAP started many years ago also as an opposition party. The people at that time took a chance (on) them and the rest is history,” he added.
Apart from Jalan Besar and Pasir Ris-Punggol, Peoples Voice is also contesting Mountbatten SMC, with a total of 10 candidates fielded.
READ: GE2020: PAP’s Lim Biow Chuan up against Peoples Voice's Sivakumaran Chellappa in Mountbatten SMC
Led by party president Reno Fong, a team from the National Solidarity Party (NSP) will challenge PAP in Tampines. The other members are Mr Mohd Ridzwan Mohammad, Mr Yeo Ren-Yuan, Mr Choong Hon Heng and Mr Vincent Ng.
“Giving the Government a strong mandate is like giving them a blank cheque. Come Polling Day, please consider giving alternative parties like us a chance. Do the next right thing,” said Mr Fong.
NSP faced PAP in Tampines in 2011 and 2015, failing both times to take the GRC from the ruling party.
With party secretary-general Spencer Ng leading another team to Sembawang GRC, NSP is fielding a total of 10 candidates across two GRCs this General Election.
REFORM PARTY, SINGAPORE DEMOCRATIC ALLIANCE, SINGAPORE PEOPLE'S PARTY
Reform Party secretary-general Kenneth Jeyaretnam will lead chairman Andy Zhu, Mr Charles Yeo, Mdm Noraini Yunus and Mr Soh Guan Soon to challenge the PAP in Ang Mo Kio.
Mr Jeyaretnam, 61, is serving a 14-day stay-home notice as he had just returned from the United Kingdom. An authorised representative delivered his nomination papers.
The Reform Party is against holding a General Election amid the COVID-19 outbreak, but the team will still take part, even with party chief Mr Jeyaretnam on stay-home notice, said chairman Mr Zhu.
“He is also known to many Singaporeans, and we have been walking the ground … People have seen him, known him and he is always online,” he told reporters after the team’s candidacies were confirmed.
The Reform Party will also contest in Radin Mas SMC, fielding a total of six candidates this General Election.
The Singapore Democratic Alliance will be fielding its only team in Pasir-Ris Punggol GRC, where it contested in the last three elections.
Its five candidates this time are party chairman Desmond Lim, Mr Harminder Pal Singh, secretary-general Abu Mohamed, and new candidates Mr Kelvin Ong and Mr Kuswadi Atnawi.
“In the past 13 years, we’ve never left (the residents) after each election but have worked even harder to support you because we believe your interest is our priority, especially the elderly and disadvantaged residents,” said Mr Lim in Chinese.
Singapore People’s Party chairman Jose Raymond will go up against PAP’s Sitoh Yih Pin in Potong Pasir SMC.
This will be SPP’s first election without Mr Chiam See Tong, one of Singapore’s longest-serving opposition politicians, and his wife Mrs Lina Chiam.
READ: GE2020: SPP chairman Jose Raymond to challenge PAP incumbent Sitoh Yih Pin in Potong Pasir SMC
Mr Sitoh has represented Potong Pasir since the 2011 election, when he edged out Mrs Chiam by just 114 votes.
After his candidacy was confirmed, Mr Raymond told reporters that it would be "rather presumptuous" of him to think about his chances of winning.
What is more important, he said, is to recognise that he has "a formidable opponent", while reinforcing the plans he has for Potong Pasir to win the hearts and minds of residents.
SPP will also face the PAP for the third time in Bishan-Toa Payoh GRC. The team, made up of party chief and former Non-Constituency Member of Parliament Steve Chia, vice-chairman Williiamson Lee, Mr Osman Sulaiman and Mr Melvyn Chiu, will challenge the PAP team helmed by Defence Minister Ng Eng Hen.
RED DOT UNITED AND PEOPLE’S POWER PARTY
Two of the 10 opposition parties contesting in the 2020 General Election will only be fielding candidates in one constituency.
Red Dot United (RDU), Singapore’s newest opposition party, will challenge PAP in Jurong GRC. The team includes party founders and former Progress Singapore Party (PSP) members Ravi Philemon and Michelle Lee, and Ms Liyana Dhamirah, Mr Nicholas Tang and Mr Alec Tok.
“For Red Dot United, this election is not about winning or losing. It is about standing up to be counted, and it is about the voices of the people in Jurong being counted as well,” said Ms Lee. “We cannot shy away from a battle because it will be a tough one."
They will go up against the team in Jurong led by Senior Minister Tharman Shanmugaratnam, Senior Parliamentary Secretary Tan Wu Meng, Ms Rahayu Mahzam and new faces Mr Shawn Huang and Mr Xie Yao Quan.
The People’s Power Party will also be represented by just one candidate, with opposition figure Goh Meng Seng in a straight fight with PAP’s Tin Pei Ling in MacPherson SMC.
Speaking to reporters during a doorstop interview after his candidacy was confirmed at Kong Hwa School, Mr Goh called on voters in MacPherson to give him "the voice" and "the power" to represent their views on these issues in Parliament.
"We have to take care of the elderly, in terms of healthcare. But we look forward for our future," he added.
"This system cannot go on. We will be all bankrupt if we allow this to go on for another 30 years."