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Singapore GE2020: Uphill battle but WP candidates are no pushovers, says Pritam

The election will be an uphill battle for the Workers’ Party (WP) but its candidates will prove that they are no pushovers, said party secretary-general Pritam Singh yesterday, after the party completed the nomination process for its 21 candidates.

Asked about his expectations for the general election, he said the party expects it to be difficult – with Covid-19 making campaigning even more challenging – and again raised the possibility of a clean sweep by the ruling People’s Action Party (PAP).

“The WP is always up against an opponent which is much more well resourced, and which always fights hard in every election,” he said.

“So, obviously I want our candidates to do well and to fight equally hard.”

The WP is fielding 21 candidates in six constituencies for this general election.

It sprang no surprises on Nomination Day, having earlier announced the number of candidates and constituencies it was contesting.

It is contesting Aljunied GRC and Hougang SMC, where it is the incumbent, as well as East Coast, Marine Parade and Sengkang GRCs and Punggol West SMC.

The list of WP candidates includes several who are taking part in the election for the first time.

In Sengkang GRC, for example, three of its four candidates are new faces. Only lawyer He Tingru, 37, has stood for election previously, as part of the WP team contesting in Marine Parade GRC in 2015.

The other members of its Sengkang team are economist Jamus Lim, 44; equity research analyst Louis Chua, 33; and social activist Raeesah Khan, 26.

But Mr Singh, 43, said the party has full confidence in the younger candidates.

CHALLENGING SITUATION

It’s always an uphill battle but now, I think, in the situation of Covid-19, it will probably be more challenging for us. We have to devote resources not just on the ground, which is still the main thrust of our campaign, but also… on social media.

WORKERS’ PARTY CHIEF PRITAM SINGH

“I think they will do well for the Workers’ Party and I think they will prove to voters that they’re no pushovers,” he said.

“They will be prepared to fight for the interests of Singapore and Singaporeans, not just in Parliament, but in the constituency and in their town councils as well.”

During the interview in Hougang – which Mr Singh said was chosen as the venue because it was where the “new spirit of the Workers’ Party bloomed” – the WP chief said that restrictions on campaigning due to the coronavirus crisis will make this general election more difficult for opposition parties.

“It’s always an uphill battle but now, I think, in the situation of Covid-19, it will probably be more challenging for us,” he told reporters.

“We have to devote resources not just on the ground, which is still the main thrust of our campaign, but also… on social media.”

His comments came after the WP rolled out a number of slickly produced campaign videos on social media that introduced party members and highlighted its achievements in some of the constituencies where it is contesting the upcoming polls.

On the PAP’s move to field Deputy Prime Minister Heng Swee Keat in East Coast GRC, Mr Singh said it is “an important signal that (they) are sending, that they take our challenge in East Coast very seriously”.

He added: “I would say we take their challenge equally seriously, and that’s why we’ve put together a strong slate of candidates in the East Coast team.”

Meanwhile, Non-Constituency MP (NCMP) Dennis Tan, 49, the party’s candidate for Hougang SMC, addressed the argument that the opposition did not need to fear a wipeout as the enhanced NCMP scheme guarantees at least 12 opposition MPs in Parliament.

The PAP’s Ms Indranee Rajah made this point on Monday during an interview, saying that NCMPs had the same voting rights as MPs.

While Mr Tan acknowledged that NCMPs have the same speaking rights as elected MPs, he said the NCMP scheme is not a solution for having a vibrant opposition.

“It will create a problem for all opposition party members. It will prevent us from sinking roots into the constituency, because… we are not allowed to hold events, for example.”

If people keep thinking that the NCMP scheme is a solution, he said, there is a strong chance that opposition parties will never be in sync with the constituencies.

Mr Tan added: “So one day, whether in the near or further future, if the PAP were to fail, if the PAP were to do very badly, how is another party going to take over as government?”

Last night, in a message to voters uploaded on its website, the opposition party said it was pro-Singapore – and was rational, responsible and respectable.

Signed by Mr Singh, it also stressed the value of having an opposition in Parliament. For example, it cited how the victory of the WP in the 2011 General Election forced PAP MPs and ministers to walk the ground more frequently.

Mr Singh added: “An elected opposition is necessary to keep the ruling party on its toes and to challenge the PAP for the betterment of Singapore.”

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