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Backroom talks heat up among Opposition camps for GE; 3-way fights likely

Jun 16, 2020 | 🚀 Fathership

Opposition figures have begun backroom negotiations to ascertain the constituencies each party will contest in the upcoming Singapore general election. Things however came to a head when some members expressed their disagreement with the way talks are conducted, a source familiar with the matter told Fathership today (Jun 16).

According to the source, some members from smaller opposition parties were reportedly unhappy with the "disrespect" shown by Progress Singapore Party (PSP) in sending PSP Assistant Secretary General (ASG) Leong Mun Wai to lead negotiations instead of PSP chief Tan Cheng Bock.

ASG Leong said in the PSP's first online outreach session last month that he is in charge of liasing with the other parties for the general election.

In contrast, ASG Leong reiterates that the relationship between the opposition parties have been "cordial" and that "the likelihood of a three-cornered fight in a GRC is quite minimal".

"There has been a lot of progress in the coordination among the opposition parties," he added.

Opposition figure and People's Power Party chief Goh Meng Seng (GMS), however, beg to differ. He published a scathing post on Facebook yesterday (Jun 15) about the state of an Opposition coalition.

Goh Meng Seng: "...we may just find ourselves looking at massive 3 Corner Fights from the East to the West, North to South"

According to GMS post, he implied that talks to form a multi-party coalition is now moot owing to the level of "arrogance" present. He did not name any parties involved but said that parties wanting to run against the People's Action Party on their own "must have their heads checked".

GMS's post comes on the back of the Reform Party's (RP) announcement where they unveiled its potential line-up of seven potential candidates for GE. The announcement was made on a Facebook live-stream yesterday (Jun 15).

When asked by a viewer about opposition unity, RP chief Kenneth Jeyaretnam noted that all the parties taking on PAP (People's Action Party) want to see “better checks and balances” and accountability on government spending. “We are still in talks with other opposition parties to sort out our area of contest,” he added.

Potential 3-way fight in West Coast GRC

While it remains unclear where each of the RP candidates will be deployed, it’s been reported that RP intends to return to the constituencies it had contested back in 2011 and 2015, including Ang Mo Kio GRC, Radin Mas SMC and West Coast GRC. This sets up a potential three-way contest in West Coast GRC as PSP has also hinted at contesting the same ward.

In March this year, ASG Leong hinted that Dr Tan will likely be fielded in West Coast GRC because of his past track record and the "expectation of voters".

The GRC includes the Ayer Rajah ward, where Dr Tan was MP for 26 years.

In a comment to the Straits Times on Tuesdy (Jun 16), RP chairman Andy Zhu said that talks have been held with PSP over their clashing claim in West Coast GRC, but to no avail.

"The older parties have a consensus that we each go back to our old homegrounds, because we are committed and we don't just come and go," he explained.

"This time, because of some new parties who want a foothold in certain GRCs as well, it's led to a more complicated discussion."

WP Pritam Singh: Opposition unity in Singapore 'remains a real challenge'

The idea of a united opposition may make sense intuitively but is challenging in practice because different parties have different philosophies, said Workers' Party (WP) chief Pritam Singh in November last year.

"The reality is that different parties and individuals have different philosophies, both ideologically and in terms of how we engage the issues of the day," he wrote.

"As a small political player in our landscape, the WP must get its political purpose right," he said. "To a large extent, this explains why opposition unity - notwithstanding friendly discussions and relationships amongst opposition members - remains a real challenge."

Referring Mr Singh's comments, GMS said he does not see any difficulty in opposition unity.

"We exist in different parties precisely because we have differences - in style, in vision, in approach or even in policy matters," he said. "It is the diversity we should embrace, not resist."