SINGAPORE - Singapore's opposition parties appeared to resolve a number of potential three-cornered fights in the coming election after a meeting on Monday to discuss strategy and forge a consensus.
The parties will meet again on Thursday for a final decision, said Ms Hazel Poa, acting secretary-general of the National Solidarity Party (NSP) which hosted the meeting.
Ms Poa said the parties "resolved most of the SMCs and GRCs".
But she declined to reveal more information or comment on the outstanding issues, saying that details will be kept confidential to help make the meeting on Thursday "more amicable".
The parties have "reaffirmed commitment to avoid three-cornered fights and that's what we are working towards on Thursday", she told reporters.
Representatives from all nine parties turned up, including the Workers' Party (WP) which has the largest opposition presence in Parliament.
The WP was represented by Mr Faisal Manap, Mr Yee Jenn Jong and Mr Daniel Goh. WP chairman Sylvia Lim would have attended the meeting if not for her Meet-the-People session which was scheduled at the same time as the pow-wow, said the party's representatives.
Mr Faisal told reporters: "We want to avoid three-cornered fights."
His sentiment was echoed by veteran opposition politician Goh Meng Seng, who has formed a new party - People's Power Party - to contest the coming election. Mr Goh, formerly secretary-general of the NSP, has announced that he will not stand in Tampines GRC which he contested on the NSP ticket in 2011 election. He said he will contest Chua Chu Kang GRC instead.
Singapore Democratic Alliance (SDA) chief Desmond Lim also told reporters at the start of Monday's meeting that his party will not contest against other opposition parties.
Besides the nine parties, Socialist Front and Singapore National Front also sent representatives. But Socialist Front said it will not stand in the coming election.
In the run-up to the huddle, party leaders have been expressing confidence that they can iron out their differences in areas where there are overlapping interests.
Yet even as leaders appeared to strike a conciliatory tone, the parties have continued to lay down markers in constituencies they are keen on contesting.
The WP has initiated talks with the NSP as both want to contest Marine Parade group representation constituency (GRC) and MacPherson single-member constituency (SMC), which will be carved out from the GRC. But both sides have continued to walk the ground in the two constituencies even though they say they are willing to compromise.
The NSP believes it should have first dibs on both areas because it stood in Marine Parade in the 2011 General Election. The WP, meanwhile, is staking its claim because the GRC will absorb the Joo Chiat single-seat ward, which the WP lost by a mere 388 votes.
It is also unclear if the NSP wants to be seen to be yielding to the WP once again, having made way in Moulmein-Kallang GRC before the 2011 polls for the WP to stand there.
The Democratic Progressive Party (DPP) and Singapore People's Party (SPP) are also on a collision course as both have been adamant about running in Bishan Toa-Payoh GRC and Potong Pasir SMC.
DPP secretary-general Benjamin Pwee, who stood in Bishan-Toa Payoh in 2011 on an SPP ticket, believes he can put up a stronger candidate in Potong Pasir than Mrs Lina Chiam of the SPP, who failed to defend her husband Chiam See Tong's longtime seat by a wafer-thin 114 votes.
Tanjong Pagar GRC, which was last contested in 1988 when it was still a single-seat ward, is also being eyed by DPP and Singaporeans First (SingFirst) party.
Mr Pwee has raised the possibility of pooling the two parties' best candidates in a combined slate but SingFirst has indicated that it prefers to stick with its own.
SingFirst party chief Tan Jee Say told reporters before the meeting on Monday night: "Our journey to the west begins in Tanjong Pagar."
Three-cornered fights were kept to a minimum in 2011, when there was just one - in Punggol East involving the ruling People's Action Party, SDA and WP.
Opposition party leaders have been speaking about the need for unity but it has often proven elusive in recent years as the opposition has splintered into nine separate entities since the 2011 election.
If all nine parties contest the coming polls as expected, it will be a record since independence.
But political observers said it remains to be seen if they can overcome the differences that pulled them apart in the first place, and present a united front this time.