SINGAPORE: The Reform Party will not contest the West Coast Group Representation Constituency (GRC) at the Jul 10 General Election, avoiding a potential three-cornered fight with the People’s Action Party (PAP) and the Progress Singapore Party (PSP).
Reform Party secretary-general Kenneth Jeyaretnam said in a statement on Facebook late on Tuesday night (Jun 23) that the party decided to give West Coast GRC a miss after “long talks” with PSP secretary-general Tan Cheng Bok and assistant secretary-general Leong Mun Wai.
"We believe the greater cause at this moment in time is opposition unity and contesting where everyone has the greatest chance of winning seats," wrote Mr Jeyaretnam.
“I will not reveal precise details of the negotiation with Dr Tan and his assistant here but PSP are contesting far fewer seats than originally anticipated and have offered to withdraw from various grounds they were originally eyeing, in return for Reform Party ceding West Coast GRC.”
While the party has “a strong emotional connection” with West Coast, Mr Jeyaretnam said the Reform Party was "determined to take the fight to (Prime Minister) Lee Hsien Loong" and not allow him a walkover in his "fortress" in Ang Mo Kio GRC.
He said: “Reform Party is proud of its stable and dedicated team that has contested West Coast GRC in two previous elections in addition to Ang Mo Kio GRC. We went to West Coast when no other opposition party was brave enough to contest it and under very difficult circumstances.”
The Reform Party contested West Coast GRC in 2015 and 2011, but failed to take the constituency from the PAP on both occasions. The incumbent has won every election there since the constituency was formed in 1997.
READ: PSP keen on contesting West Coast, Tanjong Pagar, Chua Chu Kang GRCs and 5 SMCs: Tan Cheng Bock
Mr Jeyaretnam said the Reform Party recognised that Dr Tan “has a tough fight on his hands” even though West Coast was his “old stomping ground”, adding that the party did not wish to “hinder his progress”.
Dr Tan was a Member of Parliament for Ayer Rajah for 26 years, when he was with the PAP. The ward is now part of West Coast GRC.
“It is vital that there be no 3-corner fights this GE!” he wrote on Facebook.
“I do hope that all opposition supporters in Singapore will appreciate our decision and come forward to help us in those three areas where we are contesting.”
Mr Jeyaretnam added: “Dr Tan has national recognition, but we must go where we are known."
PSP is interested in contesting West Coast, Tanjong Pagar and Chua Chu Kang GRCs as well as the Hong Kah North, Marymount, Pioneer, Yio Chu Kang and Kebun Baru Single Member Constituencies (SMCs) in the upcoming election, Dr Tan said on Tuesday.
However, speaking to media at a virtual press conference, Dr Tan maintained that things could change and the final decision on the seats that PSP will contest will only be unveiled on Nomination Day.
“We select the areas we want to contest based on whether we can win or not. And there are certain places I’m quite familiar with,” Dr Tan had said, noting that his experience as an MP and his work as a medical doctor in the area will help PSP gain an advantage in the western part of Singapore.
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The Reform Party unveiled seven potential candidates on Jun 15, including four who had contested West Coast GRC in 2015.
The seven are: Mr Jeyaretnam, 61; party chairman and a real estate agency marketing director Andy Zhu, 37; party treasurer Noraini Yunus, 52, who works in telemarketing; Darren Soh, 52, a finance executive in Hong Leong bank; Charles Yeo, 30, a criminal defence lawyer; Mahaboob Batcha, a 52-year-old oil and gas company director; and Gurdev Singh, 55, an assistant property manager with Colliers International.
Mr Jeyaretnam, Mr Zhu, Ms Noraini and Mr Soh contested West Coast GRC in 2015, garnering 21.4 per cent of the vote against the PAP team led by then-Minister for Trade and Industry Lim Hng Kiang, Minister for Communications and Information S Iswaran, Mr Patrick Tay and Ms Foo Mee Har.
For the 2020 General Election, the Reform Party will contest in Ang Mo Kio GRC, Yio Chu Kang SMC and Radin Mas SMC, Mr Jeyaretnam said in his post.
He added that the three constituencies were selected based on “moving aside for Dr Tan’s A team” and the Reform Party’s “probability of winning” due to its familiarity with the ground and residents.
The Reform Party garnered 12.7 per cent of the vote in Radin Mas and 21.4 per cent of votes in Ang Mo Kio in the last General Election.