SINGAPORE: The People's Action Party (PAP) has been unveiling its candidates over the past two weeks. So far, 68 candidates have been introduced, including 15 new faces.
In a break from tradition, the party has also identified where they will be contesting, in a bid to allow voters to get to know them and assess them better.
The upcoming General Election, to be held on Sep 11, will see all 89 seats in 29 constituencies being contested, with the fight set to be between the PAP and nine opposition parties. For the first time since the country's independence in 1965, all eligible citizens – numbering about 2.46 million – will be able to vote.
The incumbent PAP still has to unveil candidates in four out of the total 16 Group Representation Constituencies (GRCs) and two of the 13 Single-Member Constituencies (SMCs).
The focus is likely to be on the constituencies where the PAP is expected to face the Workers' Party. These are the Aljunied, Marine Parade and East Coast GRCs, and Fengshan SMC.
Besides taking the unprecedented step of announcing where candidate will run, instead of keeping its cards closer to its chest, the PAP has also introduced them in more informal settings, instead of at the party's headquarters as was the case in the past. These include a coffee shop at Toa Payoh where the party introduced its line-up for Bishan-Toa Payoh GRC.
PAP organising secretary Dr Ng Eng Hen, who is also Defence Minister, said that such locations underline the party's message that this election is about voting in MPs who can care for residents.
Observers have said that the profiles of the PAP candidates are also more diverse this time. They comprise not only former senior civil servants and an army general, but also others like former media personality Darryl David, who is currently working as a deputy director at the School of Design in Temasek Polytechnic.
Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong, who is also the PAP's secretary-general, recently said in his National Day Rally speech that leadership renewal is important for Singapore. He said that theme is central to the coming elections, as those voted in will form the core leadership for the next decades.
The party has also unveiled a series of five-year masterplans to improve the various constituencies they are in charge of. The plans include ramping up infrastructure to cater to residents – both young and old – as well as providing more amenities such as polyclinics and hawker centres.
PAP has also emphasised that the upcoming election is about choosing the party that will care for residents, and this means ensuring that both the estates and the town councils are properly managed.
A total of nine Opposition parties have indicated they will contest the upcoming General Election in September – an increase of three compared to the last election in 2011.
The Workers' Party has said it intends to contest the most number of seats of all opposition parties. They are eyeing 28 in total, in five GRCs and five single seats.
The parties have also indicated that they intend to campaign on issues such as the influx of foreigners, the cost of living and the need for checks and balances in Parliament.
Ahead of this year's election, Opposition leaders have highlighted the influx of foreigners as a key concern for Singaporeans.
At a recent political forum, some pointed out that the inflows of foreign labour in the past few years have put a strain on existing infrastructure, such as housing and transport. There have also been calls by the Opposition to do more for Singapore's ageing population, in particular in the areas of healthcare and retirement financing issues.
Another issue raised is the cost of living, which opposition leaders say is getting worse over the years. The Opposition has also repeated calls for more voices in Parliament, to keep the Government in check.
But even before Singaporeans take to the polls, the Opposition parties face another challenge of their own – the potential for multi-cornered fights to dilute any votes for them.
The dominant Workers' Party (WP) is the first Opposition party to win a GRC. It has staked its claim on 28 seats, in five GRCs and five SMCs. They include Marine Parade GRC and Sengkang West SMC.
The party also announced that its incumbent MPs will defend their existing constituencies. These include Aljunied GRC, Hougang and Punggol East SMCs. It might face a straight fight against the PAP in those areas.
But a three-cornered battle might be looming in MacPherson SMC. Just a few days ago, the National Solidarity Party (NSP) reversed an earlier decision to make way for the WP there. It now says it may contest the single seat.
Both parties have yet to reveal their candidates, but they will meet PAP's incumbent MP Tin Pei Ling.
MacPherson became a single ward after it was carved out of Marine Parade GRC following changes to the electoral boundaries. It was last contested as a single seat in 2006. Then, the PAP had defeated the Singapore Democratic Alliance, winning over 68 percent of the votes.
Taking into account its renewed interest in MacPherson, the NSP could contest up to 12 seats, the second highest of the Opposition parties.
The Singapore Democratic Party intends to contest 11 seats in constituencies that include Holland-Bukit Timah GRC and Bukit Batok SMC, and alliances have been forged between the Democratic Progressive Party and the Singapore People's Party. They said they will field a joint team in Bishan Toa-Payoh GRC under the SPP banner.
Some Opposition parties have started unveiling their candidates, but most, including the WP, are still keeping their cards close to their chest, preferring to wait instead till Nomination Day to reveal its candidates.