SINGAPORE - Workers' Party chief Pritam Singh has laid out his party's plan to woo voters in the upcoming election, saying it will field quality candidates who will ask tough questions in Parliament and manage their town councils well.
These candidates will come from a range of backgrounds and also life experience, he added without naming any of them.
He said he believes they will become competent MPs who "will do Singapore and our people proud".
In his speech at the WP's annual members forum on Sunday (Jan 19), Mr Singh rallied party members to ready themselves for the coming general election, including some who are tipped to be new candidates.
He also made his pitch for why Singaporeans should vote for the WP. The party's value proposition for voters, he said, is that it can ensure a better balanced Parliament.
To that end, it is important for the party to have at least one-third of the elected seats, so that the People's Action Party cannot change the Constitution at its pleasure like it can today, he added.
While the general election is due by April next year, it is widely expected to happen this year.
Mr Singh, recounting how his own parents have benefited from policies such as the improved Central Provident Fund Retirement Sum Scheme and the Merdeka Generation Package, said the Government had shifted to the left after the 2011 GE, in which it lost Aljunied GRC to the WP.
"Referring to the PAP as uncaring so as to persuade some of our fellow Singaporeans to consider casting their vote for the WP will be self-defeating for us," he said.
"The call instead has to be for a better balanced Parliament with elected opposition MPs serving as a realistic and meaningful check on the PAP, raising concerns of our citizens to Parliament, while at the same time building up public sector experience so as to be effective parliamentarians and town councillors," he said.
Noting that no opposition in any parliamentary democracy can enact laws or policies that will directly influence people's lives, he said the opposition's role is to make sure the ruling party "does not have a blank cheque to do whatever it wants".
Hence, the WP will need more elected MPs in Parliament, he said, and not Non-Constituency MPs, who are the best performing losers in the GE.
"An unelected opposition in Parliament cannot change the PAP. GE 2011 and the Government's response to shift to the left proved that," he added.
Reiterating the WP's medium-term plan is to win one-third of parliamentary seats, he said: "The right numerical balance is not just random number, it is an inherent checking mechanism in our parliamentary democracy against any ruling party that chooses to put its political interests first."
Citing constitutional changes to the Elected Presidency passed in 2016, Mr Singh said the PAP would have had to take its time to rationally persuade Singaporeans if it did not have a parliamentary majority.
As a result of the changes, the 2017 presidential election was reserved for Malay candidates.
He added: "In my opinion, the urgency to amend the Elected Presidency was politically manufactured by the PAP. The real risk appeared to be Tan Cheng Bock's potential participation in the last presidential elections, and the election of a president who was unlikely to be the PAP's preferred choice."
He also urged WP members to "reflect and act with circumspection and thoughtfulness" and to "strive for greater heights at the town council level" so as to build people's confidence in alternate political leaders.
"The public may want an elected opposition in Parliament, but we have to earn our place and work hard both in our Town Councils and in Parliament to retain the confidence and support of our people," he said.