Workers' Party should aim to win one-third of seats in Parliament: Pritam Singh

Workers' Party should aim to win one-third of seats in Parliament: Pritam Singh

Pritam Singh parly Oct 1
Mr Pritam Singh speaking in Parliament on Monday (Oct 1). 

SINGAPORE: The Workers' Party (WP) should aim to contest and win one-third of the seats in Parliament as a "medium-term objective", its secretary-general Pritam Singh has said.

"I say one-third in the medium-term because of the past experience of the Workers’ Party in attracting suitable and qualified candidates who are willing to stand in general elections," Mr Singh said on Sunday (Jan 13), according to a copy of a speech he gave at the WP Members' Forum 2019.

"For a small party like ours, it is a high bar."

Mr Singh, a Member of Parliament (MP) for Aljunied GRC, said that it is his "firm belief and conviction that Singapore must aspire towards a genuinely diverse Parliament" with at least a third of the elected seats in opposition hands.

This is "regardless (of) which party is running the country and which party or parties are in the opposition", he added.

"The political outcome that is desired is one which makes any government sensitive to the pulse of the people and their welfare, allowing any ruling party to govern without gridlock while promoting the political openness that so many of us yearn for in Singapore," he said.

"It will engender a different type of politics that precipitates a Singapore which is caring and confident about the future, not one that is framed by libel suit after libel suit against one's opponents, be they in politics or civil society."

READ: PM Lee sues blogger Leong Sze Hian for defamation over sharing of article

The WP currently has six out of 89 seats in Parliament, with the ruling People's Action Party (PAP) occupying the remaining 83. WP also has three non-constituency MPs in the House.

Pointing out that WP only has a "toe-hold" in Parliament, Mr Singh said: "The risk of a wipe-out with no elected opposition represented by the Workers’ Party is a real one."

The next general election is due by early 2021, but there has been speculation that it could come as soon as this year.

Mr Singh said the playing field between the PAP and the opposition continues to be uneven, given the PAP's "determination to maintain its dominance through its control of grassroots organisations".

"This includes its ability to make changes to the Constitution, the highest law of the land, through its near absolute control of Parliament," he added.

Amendments to Singapore's Constitution require a two-thirds majority in Parliament.

"BEST TEAM, NOT BEST INDIVIDUALS"

Mr Singh, who took over the secretary-general position from veteran politician Low Thia Khiang in April 2018, also exhorted party members to unite in the face of a "more complex political environment".

READ: Pritam Singh elected new WP chief, succeeding Low Thia Khiang

"Our future members will come from many walks of life, driven by different ideas on how to improve the welfare of Singaporeans," he said.

"We have to put the best team to offer a secure alternative to Singaporeans – let me stress, the best team, not the best individuals ... The party must comprise members who work with others and not march to their own drumbeat."

The party is cautious about people who are personal towards those who disagree with them and towards political opponents, he added.

Outlining WP's philosophy, he said that a "live and let live" attitude of tolerance underscores the party's vision to create a truly inclusive country "regardless where one stands on the political spectrum".

"Wisdom would dictate that a sense of proportion, empathy and balance should drive how the Workers' Party approaches Singapore politics," he added.

Source: CNA/hz(hm)

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