GE2020: Difficult journey to win one-third of seats but balanced Parliament is important, says WP’s Pritam Singh
SINGAPORE: As part of its long-term dream for Singapore to have a healthy democracy with two or three political parties forming a Government, the Workers’ Party (WP) said it continues to believe that at least one-third of the seats in Parliament should be in the hands of the opposition.
But the journey to achieving this will be a “difficult” one, WP chief Pritam Singh told reporters on Friday morning (Jul 3) after a walkabout, but the party will “have to persuade Singaporeans of the importance of a balanced Parliament”.
In his televised party political broadcast on Thursday night, Mr Singh laid out how votes for the WP will count in three ways and contribute to the party’s long-term dream “for Singapore to have a healthy democracy where there are two or three parties who could form a competent and honest Government”.
Asked how many seats the opposition party will have in this long-term dream, Mr Singh reiterated the party’s objective of winning at least one-third of the seats in Parliament.
Even with that, the People’s Action Party (PAP) still has “an incredibly strong mandate”, he said. The Government will still be able to pass Bills, except for constitutional amendments which can only be passed with a two-thirds majority in Parliament.
“That's why one-third of the seats in opposition hands is important because you have to go out there and explain to people why certain things have to be done,” he said, citing the reserved Presidential Election in 2017.
“It's not just a number that is plucked out of thin air. I think people have seen (the) Government become more responsive and more sensitive to the public when it loses elected seats,” said Mr Singh.
“The PAP is in a position where they've got an incredible super-majority and I think that needs to be cut down for the benefit of Singapore and Singaporeans.”
Mr Singh was also asked to comment on an ongoing to-and-fro between the PAP and the Singapore Democratic Party (SDP), which started with an exchange between SDP secretary-general Chee Soon Juan and Foreign Affairs Minister Vivian Balakrishnan in a live political debate earlier this week.
During the debate, Dr Chee spoke about Deputy Prime Minister Heng Swee Keat “toying with the idea” of increasing Singapore’s population to 10 million. Dr Balakrishnan, PAP’s representative at the debate, countered by saying that Dr Chee had made a false statement, accusing him of "raising a false straw man”.
Mr Heng, in a Facebook post on Thursday, denied that he had said Singapore should plan to increase its population to 10 million.
Asked for his comment on this issue, Mr Singh said he did not want to mistakenly paraphrase what both parties have said but there “seems to be an issue because of the nature of POFMA (Protection from Online Falsehoods and Manipulation Act) and the nature of falsehood and how do we describe a falsehood”.
“We know it's a false statement of fact, but you know when you have ministers in the past who’ve made allusions to ... possibly (having) a larger population size, then I think there is room for fair comment about really what is the size that you're aiming towards," he said.
“I think most reasonable people would come to that conclusion but of course, there could be different positions and now ministers have come out to make it clear."
He added: “One of the things I don't understand is why can't these things actually come up, you know, well before the elections. I mean, it's the Government's position so it should state that very clearly.”
Mr Singh was speaking to reporters after joining WP’s candidate for Punggol West SMC Tan Chen Chen on a walkabout. Together with party chair Sylvia Lim, they gave out fliers and interacted with patrons and stall owners at a coffee shop at Block 261 along Punggol Way.
The trio later took the LRT to Punggol MRT station, where they interacted with residents for a short while before speaking to reporters.
Punggol West is a new constituency carved out of the Pasir Ris-Punggol GRC for this election. It has 26,579 voters, according to the Elections Department.
The WP has fielded Ms Tan, a 38-year-old contracts administrator who is standing in an election for the first time.
She will go up against PAP incumbent Sun Xueling, who has helmed the ward since the 2015 polls. Ms Sun, 41, also served as the Senior Parliamentary Secretary for Home Affairs and National Development.
Explaining why the WP decided to contest in the single-seat ward, Ms Lim said the party was predicting a new Group Representation Constituency (GRC) to be carved out in Punggol given the population increase in the area. Its volunteers and potential candidates have also been working the ground over the past few years.
“Of course this is all educated guess because you know that the election boundary review committee re-drawing is the topmost secret in Singapore and nobody knows exactly how they do things,” she said.
“We were not expecting (Punggol West to be announced as a new SMC) but because it has been drawn out of the region where we have been active so that's why we are contesting here.”
Mr Singh described Ms Tan as a young and “very energetic” candidate who will be able to represent the residents of Punggol West.
Asked how prepared she feels about going up against Ms Sun, Ms Tan said she has been working the ground and speaking to residents.
“Of course I have to fight for it. I have to do my best in order to win the votes," she said.