SINGAPORE - A "significant opposition presence" is guaranteed in Parliament, regardless of what happens in the general election, said Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong on Tuesday (June 30).
In a virtual press conference, he noted that the expanded Non-Constituency MP (NCMP) scheme now guarantees there will be 12 opposition members in Parliament, even in the event that the 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 Mr 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.
In response to a question, he acknowledged that opposition parties would nonetheless 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.
In his opening remarks at the press conference, Mr Lee stressed the high stakes of this election, pointing out that Singapore needs to have the best team to see the country through the Covid-19 crisis.
"Vote for the party with the experience and the commitment, and the ideas to take us home," he said, reiterating the key theme of the PAPs manifesto - lives, jobs, and the future.
"Everything depends on which government you choose and the mandate that you give it."
The PAP, he said, expects a tough fight because of the pain and uncertainty felt by people due to the pandemic.
Mr Lee added that the opposition party deployments - including to hot seats such as the East Coast and West Coast GRCs - 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," he said.
"We try to make an assessment of where our most important contests may be, and where we can best re-deploy our chess pieces - so that in every constituency, we have a team which fits the needs of that constituency, and would be able to give good service to its residents and put up a good fight in the campaign. That is the reason for all of our deployments."
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."