SINGAPORE - Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong expects a tough fight at the coming election as he stressed that the country is at a turning point.
Speaking at a press conference hours after the close of nominations, he said: "I have told all PAP candidates, fight as if you might lose. It is possible."
"This is an election where there is a lot at stake and where we have to take very seriously people's concerns, people aspirations, their outlook in a new world and also the way the election is going to be fought," he said.
Earlier in the day, at the close of nominations, contests were confirmed in all 89 seats in Parliament, the first time since there will be no walkovers on Polling Day since independence. Three single-seat wards - Bukit Batok, MacPherson and Radin Mas - will even see three-cornered fights. In 2011, only Punggol East saw such a battle.
Mr Lee also reiterated points he made recently about the high stakes at play for the country in the coming polls.
He said: "It's been an upward journey, an exhilarating trip, where do we now go? Continue up, level off or go down. And this is the election at the turning point which I have called to get a mandate to decide with Singaporeans how we want to take the country forward."
He added: "The government, leadership team and direction that we take - those three things are how we continue, and those three things are what we are asking voters to think about."
Asked if the emphasis on municipal issues like the Workers' Party's management of their town council is distracting Singaporeans from national issues, Mr Lee said that it is important for MPs to be able to manage towns.
He said: "The way we have designed the system to make town councils the responsibility of elected MPs was a deliberate choice so that people who aspire to be the government of Singapore will first be tested to be running a town council and demonstrating that they are capable of administering, managing, leading and producing results to Singaporeans."
Mr Lee also said the party will try and find the best way of conveying the gravity of the matter to the voters.
During the press conference, he was flanked by Deputy Prime Minister Teo Chee Hean, Education Minister Heng Swee Keat, Minister for Communications and Information Yaacob Ibrahim, Senior Minister of State Indranee Rajah and Senior Minister of State Josephine Teo.
The Prime Minister also took aim at opposition performance in Parliament, saying that more opposition in the House isn't necessarily better.
"It's easy to make rousing speeches at rallies. But none of them raise those issues in Parliament because they know that they will be pinned down on their insincerities and untruths. You voted for a tiger in a chamber and you got a mouse in the house," he said.