A "significant opposition presence" is guaranteed in Parliament, regardless of what happens in the general election, said Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong.
In a virtual press conference yesterday, he noted that the expanded Non-Constituency MP (NCMP) scheme now guarantees there will be 12 opposition members in Parliament - up from nine - even in the event that the People's Action Party (PAP) wins all the seats.
"NCMPs do have full voting rights, exactly the same as elected MPs. They can vote on Budgets, they can vote on constitutional amendments, they can even vote on motions of confidence," he said. "So whatever happens, a significant opposition presence is guaranteed. There is no possibility of the opposition being shut out from Parliament."
Given this, said PM Lee, Singaporeans should not vote for "compromise candidates" that would weaken the national team.
They should scrutinise the candidates and parties carefully, vote for the candidate or GRC team whom they think can do the best job for them in their constituency, and whose party will serve Singapore best if elected, he added.
Asked if he agreed with parties that have stressed the importance of sending elected opposition members to Parliament, he acknowledged that opposition parties would want to try "very hard" to win elected seats and not just have "high, good, losing results" in all the constituencies.
"But as far as the Constitution is concerned, as far as Parliament's operations are concerned, there is no difference between NCMPs and elected MPs in terms of their rights and privileges," he said. "They are the same, and we expect the (NCMPs) to participate as actively as elected MPs," he said, adding that the Workers' Party NCMPs have been especially active in Parliament, even at the risk of overshadowing the elected MPs at times.
This is a point that other PAP ministers have raised during this election season.
On Monday, Minister in the Prime Minister's Office Indranee Rajah said it is not necessary for opposition candidates to be elected to have a say in Parliament, as the NCMP scheme guarantees there will be at least 12 opposition MPs in the House.
Commenting on opposition party deployments after the close of nomination proceedings, PM Lee said these did not come as a surprise.
"(The opposition parties) have been active for the last few months, and we have seen which constituencies they have been interested in, where they have been campaigning harder. And what they have done is generally in line with what the tea leaves have shown," PM Lee said.
He added: "The opposition are well organised and prepared, and will not roll over... The PAP will have to fight for every vote and win every heart."