Opposition talks conclude with multi-cornered fights still on the cards

Opposition talks conclude with multi-cornered fights still on the cards

Representatives from Opposition parties, minus The Workers' Party, meet for a second time in a week for discussions to avoid multi-cornered fights in the upcoming General Election.

SINGAPORE: Representatives from Opposition parties on Thursday (Aug 6) concluded the second round of horse-trading talks, and it appears that all 89 seats will be contested in the next election.

The hour-long discussion ended at about 8.50pm with MacPherson SMC, Marine Parade and Ang Mo Kio GRCs being flagged as constituencies that are likely to see multi-cornered fights. However, National Solidarity Party's (NSP) Sebastian Teo said that they are unlikely to have further all-Opposition meetings as the talks are "likely finalised".

Meanwhile, Singapore People's Party announced that it will partner Democratic Progressive Party to contest Bishan-Toa Payoh.

NSP said it is hoping for bilateral talks with the Workers' Party to avoid multi-cornered fights in Marine Parade GRC and MacPherson SMC. "Obviously there is a clash of interest. But I think in light of opposition unity, we would still like to try to reach out and see if we can work out a compromise," said acting secretary general Hazel Poa.

Singapore Democratic Party also announced that it will not contest Sembawang GRC. "This is a difficult decision to make as we contested in the area in the 2011 General Election and have been working the ground there since then," said secretary general Chee Soon Juan in a statement. "However, we feel that such a move will help to facilitate the discussions among the parties and, hopefully, assist in their resolution."

"We apologise to the residents of the Sembawang GRC but we feel that in order that there be one-to-one contests between the PAP and the opposition parties, compromise is key," he added.

Nine parties in total were represented at the NSP headquarters on Thursday: The Singapore People's Party (SPP), the Reform Party (RP), the Democratic Progressive Party (DPP), Singaporeans First (SingFirst), People's Power Party (PPP), Singapore National Front (SNF), Singapore Democratic Party (SDP), and hosts NSP. WP did not attend the meeting.

"It's their choice," said SingFirst's Tan Jee Say, when asked to comment on WP's no-show. "This meeting is not binding on anyone."

"(WP) should practice a bit of diplomacy when it comes to negotiation... Because we survive on diplomacy as a small country," added PPP's Goh Meng Seng. "And it's regrettable that they did not attend."

Ms Poa said she had received a text message from WP chairperson Sylvia Lim, informing her of the party's absence.


RP chief Kenneth Jeyaratnam left about half an hour into the meeting, after he said SingFirst insisted on contesting West Coast GRC.

"We will try to resolve that with bilateral discussions," he told reporters. "We contested there in 2011, we've been walking the ground."

"SingFirst hasn't walked the ground there. They have approached a candidate to join them which shows they don't have enough candidates," he added.

Mr Jeyaratnam however, said "there will be a three-cornered fight", when asked if SingFirst still insists on running in the constituency.

JUST IN: Reform Party chief Kenneth Jeyaratnam walks out of Opposition meeting, says the party wants to hold further talks with SingFirst to avoid three-cornered fights in West Coast GRC. bit.ly/1DsS814

Posted by Channel NewsAsia Singapore on Thursday, 6 August 2015

NSP's former secretary general Tan Lam Siong was seen outside NSP's headquarters on Thursday evening. He said he was not present at the talks. "Unless there is a conclusion from tonight's meeting that gives me a good enough reason to not contest (Potong Pasir SMC), there could be a three-cornered fight. As of now, I insist on contesting in Potong Pasir," he told reporters.

Mr Tan previously said he intends to contest Potong Pasir as an independent candidate. SPP's Lina Chiam has also expressed interest in contesting the constituency in the next election. Mrs Chiam narrowly lost to PAP's Sitoh Yih Pin when she contested Potong Pasir in 2011.

Former NSP secretary general Tan Lam Siong. (Photo: Elizabeth Goh)

Before the meeting, DPP's Benjamin Pwee said: "The last meeting on Monday night was cordial and positive, and we really did work through the bulk of SMCs and GRCs. So I'm actually very confident going in tonight, that there will be goodwill and we'll resolve hopefully all the constituencies on the table. We're going in with very high hopes."

Ms Poa had said there was "quite a lot of giving way". However representatives were tight-lipped on the outcome of Monday's discussions, saying issues raised would be taken back to various Central Executive Committees for further consultation.

NSP secretary general Hazel Poa arrives at the second round of Opposition talks. (Photo: Elizabeth Goh)

PPP chief Goh Meng Seng had said he was "optimistic" most issues would be resolved by Thursday.

PPP's Goh Meng Seng. (Photo: Elizabeth Goh)

SingFirst party chief Tan Jee Say echoed his sentiments. He told reporters it was not easy ensuring no multi-cornered fights, but there is common will.

SingFirst chief Tan Jee Say. (Photo: Elizabeth Goh)

Source: CNA/dl