SINGAPORE: Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong has described the Hougang by-election as an "uphill fight" for the People's Action Party (PAP).
He said PAP candidate Desmond Choo was putting up a very good fight and he hoped Hougang residents would give him a chance.
Speaking to the media after a walkabout with Mr Choo on Saturday, Mr Lee felt there was goodwill among the residents in the single-member constituency.
Mr Lee stressed that the by-election was serious business for residents.
It was for them to choose who could be the best candidate and the best Member of Parliament to represent them and look after them in the ward, he said.
Mr Lee also responded to WP's line that the Hougang by-election was serious business for the party.
He said if that was indeed so, the Workers' Party should have put up a good candidate for the constituency in the General Election held in May last year.
Mr Lee also said having alternative voices in Parliament was not the reason the Hougang by-election was called.
"Whether you have one extra in Hougang or one less in Hougang it doesn't change the basic picture in Parliament," Mr Lee said.
"That was not the reason why Hougang's by-election was called. Hougang's by-election is being called because there was a malfunction inside the Workers' Party and therefore they had no choice but to do this."
He said the by-election was really about voting for the best candidate to serve residents, commenting on the Workers' Party's call to residents to vote for the Workers' Party and keep Hougang a "bastion of democracy".
Mr Lee, who is also the PAP's Secretary-General, said there are already eight opposition MPs in Parliament and another nine Nominated MPs.
"The voters in Hougang should consider carefully, not blindly, but carefully who is the best candidate, who can best represent them well, who will work best for them and has the strongest backing and look after them and that is the way democracy is meant to work," Mr Lee said.
"Democracy does not mean voting blindly. Democracy means thinking carefully and choosing each time for the Party and the candidate who can serve you the best and that is what real democracy is."
"And if you have change, you have to change," Mr Lee added.
As for the candidate, Mr Choo, he said he will focus on visiting residents in the coming days "because I can listen to their concerns, address them there and then".
"A rally is for me to reach out to a wider group, outline my vision," he said. "But nothing beats being able to share with individuals, (find out) what are your plans and get the feedback directly."
"You don't get that kind of response when you go to a rally. You just talk to the people; they don't get the chance to get back to you and say, 'now this is what my hopes and fears are'," he added.
"So, you'll still find me concentrating on house visits, concentrating hard on the markets and coffee shops, very one to one, very personal."
The PAP will hold its first rally on Sunday at 7pm at Hougang Stadium.