Singapore GE2020: WP candidates face uphill battle but will prove they are not pushovers, says Pritam Singh

The Workers’ Party expects a difficult fight against the People’s Action Party in the constituencies it is contesting, especially given the Covid-19 situation. But party chief Pritam Singh said WP has full confidence in its new candidates.
Workers' Party chief Pritam Singh, followed by WP chairman Sylvia Lim and members Faisal Manap, Gerald Giam and Leon Perera, arriving at the Deyi Secondary School nomination centre.
Workers' Party chief Pritam Singh, followed by WP chairman Sylvia Lim and members Faisal Manap, Gerald Giam and Leon Perera, arriving at the Deyi Secondary School nomination centre.ST PHOTO: DESMOND FOO

SINGAPORE - The election will be an uphill battle for the Workers’ Party (WP) but the party’s candidates will prove to voters that they are no pushovers, said party secretary-general Pritam Singh on Tuesday (June 30), after the party completed the nomination process for its 21 candidates.

Asked about his expectations for the election, he said the party expects it to be difficult, and again raised the possibility of a clean sweep by the PAP.

“The WP is always up against an opponent who is much more well-resourced, and which always fights hard in every election,” he said. “So obviously I want our candidates to do well. And to fight equally hard, and make sure that their efforts through these nine days inspires their best efforts.”

There WP is fielding 21 candidates in six constituencies for this general election. It sprung no surprises on Nomination Day having earlier announced the number of candidates and constituencies it was contesting.

It is contesting Aljunied GRC and Hougang SMC, where the it is the incumbent, as well as East Coast, Marine Parade and Sengkang GRCs and Punggol West SMC. 

The list of WP candidates included a number who are taking part in the elections for the first time. 

 
 

In Sengkang GRC, for example, three of its four candidates are new faces. Only lawyer He Ting Ru, 37, had run for elections previously, as part of the WP team contesting Marine Parade GRC in 2015. The other members of its Sengkang team are economist Jamus Lim, 44, equity research analyst Louis Chua, 33, and social activist Raeesah Khan, 26.

But Mr Singh said the party has full confidence in the younger candidates. 

“I think they will do well for the Workers’ Party and I think they will prove to voters that they’re no pushover,” he said.“They will be prepared to fight for the interests of Singapore and Singaporeans not just in Parliament but in the constituency, and in their town councils as well.” 
 

 
 

During the interview in Hougang – which Mr Singh said was chosen as the venue because it was where the “new spirit of the Workers’ Party bloomed ” – the WP chief said that restrictions on campaigning due to the coronavirus crisis will make this general election more difficult for opposition parties.

“It’s always an uphill battle, but now I think in the situation of Covid-19, it will probably be more challenging for us,” he told reporters. “We have to devote resources not just on the ground, which is still the main thrust of our campaign but also... on social media.” 

His comments after the WP rolled out a number of slickly-produced campaign videos on social media that introduced party members, and highlighted party achievements in some of the wards it is contesting for the upcoming polls. 

On PAP’s move to field Deputy Prime Minister Heng Swee Keat in East Coast GRC, Mr Singh said this was “an important signal that they take our challenge in East Coast very seriously”. 

 
 

He added: “I would say we take their challenge equally seriously and that’s why we’ve put together a strong slate of candidates in the East Coast team.”

Meanwhile, former NCMP Dennis Tan, 49, the party’s candidate for Hougang SMC, addressed the argument that the opposition need not fear a wipe-out as the enhanced NCMP scheme guarantees at least 12 opposition MPs in Parliament.

The ruling People’s Action Party’s Indranee Rajah made this point on Monday during an interview, saying that NCMPs had the same voting rights as MPs. 

But while he acknowledged that NCMPs have the same speaking rights as elected MPs, Mr Tan said  the NCMP scheme is not a solution for having a vibrant opposition.

“If people keep thinking that the NCMP is a solution, there is a very strong chance that the opposition party will never be able to sink roots in a particularly constituency, because they are not allowed to operate there... So one day, whether in the near or further future, if the PAP were to fail, if the PAP were to do very badly, how is another party going to take over as government?”