Waiting game for opposition parties

Singapore Democratic Party chairman Chee Soon Juan speaking to guests at the party's new headquarters at Link@AMK yesterday. He said that if Parliament is dissolved by Wednesday, then the party is likely to announce its candidates "towards the end of
Singapore Democratic Party chairman Chee Soon Juan speaking to guests at the party's new headquarters at Link@AMK yesterday. He said that if Parliament is dissolved by Wednesday, then the party is likely to announce its candidates "towards the end of the week".ST PHOTO: MARK CHEONG

Caution prevails as most groups hold are holding off on announcing candidates, at least till Parliament is dissolved

The People's Action Party (PAP) may have unveiled most of its candidates except for constituencies to be contested by the Workers' Party (WP), but most opposition parties are not taking any chances in announcing their candidates yet.

Several party chiefs told The Sunday Times they will wait till at least Parliament is dissolved in case the election does not take place soon enough to sustain the public's interest in their candidates.

Others also feel last-minute changes by the PAP are possible and want to be able to exploit any tactical advantages that arise.

If Parliament is dissolved by Wednesday, the Singapore Democratic Party (SDP) is likely to announce its candidates "towards the end of the week", party chief Chee Soon Juan told The Sunday Times at the opening of its new headquarters at Link@AMK yesterday.

"Suppose we announce and then the Prime Minister calls the polls in December? Not that it's going to make it any more difficult, but we want to time it such that the news builds up," said Dr Chee.

People's Power Party chief Goh Meng Seng said he learnt from past polls that unveiling potential candidates too early may put them under unnecessary pressure from families and friends.

He said there have been instances where potential candidates decided to pull out at the eleventh hour, and the team fell through.

Singaporeans First Party chief Tan Jee Say said it will only reveal its candidates on Nomination Day, claiming that the PAP has previously redeployed candidates on that day itself and might do so again.

Reform Party chairman Andy Zhu said the party plans to reveal its candidates before Nomination Day. "Our candidates are ready. We are only waiting for Parliament to be dissolved," he said.

With the introductions of its candidates in several Group Representation Constituencies (GRC) and Single-Member Constituencies (SMC) yesterday, the PAP has introduced some 75 per cent of its slate for the 89 seats in Parliament.

The remaining are four GRCs in Aljunied (five-seat), East Coast (four), Marine Parade (five), and Nee Soon (five), as well as Fengshan and Punggol East SMCs.

Last Sunday, WP chairman Sylvia Lim said its seven elected MPs would be defending Aljunied GRC, and the Hougang and Punggol East SMCs. But the party is remaining mum on the other 21 candidates to be fielded and is sticking to its past practice of confirming its line-up on Nomination Day.

So far, only the Singapore People's Party has formally introduced its candidates, with blogger Ravi Philemon unveiled yesterday for the Hong Kah North SMC. Party chairman Lina Chiam will be contesting Potong Pasir SMC, while lawyer Jeannette Chong-Aruldoss is being fielded in Mountbatten.

Singapore Management University law professor Eugene Tan said a key reason opposition parties are holding out is to seek a tactical advantage over the PAP, which has made a commitment to reveal its candidates and line-ups before Nomination Day.

The opposition parties would like to be able to adjust their line-ups accordingly, if need be, said Prof Tan.

"There may also be the concern that if the opposition party's line-up is unveiled relatively early, more would be known about their candidates and that this may not be to their advantage," he added.

But Prof Tan said candidates ought to have resolved issues such as non-support from families from the outset in order to be fair to their own parties and voters.

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Sunday Times on August 23, 2015, with the headline 'Waiting game for opposition parties'. Print Edition | Subscribe