With three days to go before Nomination Day for the Bukit Batok by-election, there remains a chance that the contest might not be a straight fight between Mr Murali Pillai of the People's Action Party (PAP) and Dr Chee Soon Juan of the Singapore Democratic Party (SDP).
Five applications for political donation certificates were handed in by the time applications closed at 1pm yesterday, the Elections Department (ELD) said. It did not disclose the applicants' names.
That five people had applied for these certificates opens the possibility of independent candidates standing in the by-election, which will be held on May 7 to fill the seat vacated by former PAP MP David Ong, who resigned on March 12 over an alleged extramarital affair.
Singapore's election rules require all candidates to submit political donation forms, on which they have to record donations received and declare that the funds are permitted under the law, among other things.
This paperwork is needed to obtain political donation certificates, which ELD will issue ahead of Nomination Day on Wednesday.
Candidates will have to submit these certificates with their nomination papers. They must also have a proposer, seconder and at least four assentors, who must all be eligible to vote in the constituency.
Private-hire car driver Shirwin Eu, 32, who picked up his nomination forms on Thursday, confirmed that he submitted an application.
Former opposition candidate Abdul Rahim Osman, 59, who collected his nomination papers on Friday, declined to say if he had submitted his political donation forms.
However, he told The Sunday Times he had been conducting straw polls among Bukit Batok residents to determine if he should stand as an independent candidate.
Applying for a donation certificate is no guarantee that a would-be candidate will stand.
For the Hougang by-election in May 2012, four candidates applied for and got political donation certificates, but only two contested the poll which Mr Png Eng Huat of the Workers' Party (WP) won against Mr Desmond Choo of the PAP.
For the Punggol East by-election in January 2013, as many as 14 candidates applied for and received certificates. Only four stood and Ms Lee Li Lian of WP won against Dr Koh Poh Koon of the PAP, Mr Kenneth Jeyaretnam of the Reform Party and Mr Desmond Lim of the Singapore Democratic Alliance.
An ELD spokesman said then: "ELD will leave it to individual applicants to decide whether to and when to make public that they have applied for or received a certificate. This position will apply to all future parliamentary elections as well."
Meanwhile, in Bukit Batok, Mr Murali and Dr Chee continued walking the ground to reach out to as many of the 25,727 voters as possible. Mr Murali, 48, and Dr Chee, 53, spent the day doing house visits. At night, Mr Murali attended a dinner at the Guilin Combined Temple, while Dr Chee visited coffee shops.
Sales assistant Mary Lim, 45, who has lived in Bukit Batok for 20 years, said she has not met either candidate but has been following their daily updates on social media.
She added that she will be following the nine-day campaign closely before deciding who to vote for.
PAP MPs from neighbouring Jurong GRC also dropped by to meet residents, with Deputy Prime Minister Tharman Shanmugaratnam and Senior Minister of State for Home Affairs and National Development Desmond Lee attending a lunch party at a Bukit Batok Street 21 housing block void deck.
While most other opposition parties have said they are staying away from the race, a spot of controversy emerged online from Singapore People's Party chairman Lina Chiam. In a Facebook post on Friday, Mrs Chiam took issue with a photo depicting her husband, former opposition MP Chiam See Tong, alongside Dr Chee in the SDP newsletter.
She said Dr Chee did not get permission to use the image of Mr Chiam, who left SDP for SPP in 1996 following a dispute with party leaders shortly after Dr Chee joined SDP.
She added: "Mr Chiam has not given his endorsement to any candidate for the upcoming Bukit Batok by-election."
The SDP yesterday issued a statement by Dr Wong Wee Nam, who wrote the article beside the photo, clarifying that the image referred to was in The New Democrat's June 2015 issue.
The piece recounts Dr Wong's failed effort in 2010 to bring Mr Chiam back to the SDP. "The SDP was not seeking any endorsement from Mr or Mrs Chiam," said the long-time opposition supporter.