The risk of multi-corner fights during the next election has heightened after leaders of some opposition parties revealed that they may skip the usual horse-trading talks that take place before Nomination Day. The deviation from practice comes as Singapore anticipates the possibility of being called to the polls as early as next month.
Prior to each election, the leaders of the various opposition parties in Singapore congregate and discuss which wards they would like to contest. This is done primarily to avoid multi-corner fights that could dilute the opposition vote and cause one or more parties running against the PAP behemoth to lose its election deposit.
This time, however, the usual pow-wow may not be on the cards as parties hold private discussions in smaller groups. Leaders from the Singapore People’s Party (SPP), the Reform Party (RP) and the People’s Voice Party (PVP) all told the Straits Times that plans for an all-party summit, which usually gets underway after the electoral boundaries are revealed, have not come up.
SPP chief Steve Chia said that no party has requested a pow wow while RP chairman Andy Zhu felt that no one party “seems to want to organise it”.
While COVID-19 restrictions that bar gatherings of more than five people could play a part in the break from the decades-long tradition, observers say that the opposition parties may skip their summit this time because most of the parties are planning to contest the same wards that they contested in the last election.
The SPP, the RP, and the Singapore Democratic Party (SDP) have all announced the wards they are planning to contest. Most of these constituencies are the same wards they stood in during the last election and where they have been walking the ground in between elections.
The parties that seem to be fighting for a stake at the table are the new parties that were formed since the last election. The newest political parties can stake a claim on the new wards that have arisen following the report of the Electoral Boundaries Review Committee, as they barter for an existing ward with another opposition party or enter into a multi-cornered fight.
Given the coalition between the PVP, Singapore First party, the People’s Power Party and the Democratic People’s Party, PVP leader Lim Tean may be able to wrangle a ward or two even though his party is one of the new kids on the block.
Singapore’s newest political party, Red Dot United (RDU), said earlier that it is considering whether to contest the upcoming election. The party, which is predominantly comprised of younger Singaporeans, said that it takes a “long term view” in engaging Singaporeans of all ages in social-political issues during election season and beyond.
Meanwhile, the PSP – which scaled back its plans to contest 44 seats down to 29 seats – remains keen on contesting West Coast GRC even though the RP is unwilling to cede its claim on the ward it contested in the last election, setting up a potential three-corner fight.
Without a grand all-party meet, plans still appear up in the air although PSP assistant secretary-general Leong Munwai said that the likelihood of a three-cornered fight in a GRC is “quite minimal”.
While some of the bigger parties seem happy to continue their work on the ground, others feel that it would be unwise to go into the election without an all-party summit.
Pointing out that this is the first time since at least 2001 that horse-trading talks are not held, PPP chief said that the break from practice is “very risky”. He told the Straits Times: “People are playing poker with all their cards close to their chest, so everyone will be going into the elections blind.”
DPP secretary-general Hamim Aliyas expressed hope that the talks will be held sometime in the future. He told the publication: “It’s important for open and transparent discussions, to let all parties be in the know.”