A day after opposition leaders emerged all smiles from a three-hour meeting and declared that most potential multi-cornered fights had been resolved, it emerged yesterday that discussions were dominated by a heated tussle between the Workers’ Party (WP) and the National Solidarity Party (NSP) over Marine Parade Group Representation Constituency (GRC), Jalan Besar GRC and the MacPherson single-seat ward.
At one point, an NSP representative even threatened to send a team to contest in Aljunied GRC — which is held by the WP — if the WP refused to back down, sources who attended the closed-door meeting at the NSP’s Jalan Besar headquarters told TODAY.
The sources, who declined to be identified as the parties had agreed on keeping the discussions confidential, said the WP stood firm on its decision to send a team to contest Marine Parade GRC, where the NSP had lost in the 2011 General Election despite garnering 43.4 per cent of the votes.
The NSP had asked for the WP to withdraw its interest in Jalan Besar GRC, in return for the NSP to give up contesting Marine Parade GRC. The WP said no. There was also no room for negotiation on MacPherson Single-Member Constituency (SMC), which the NSP is also eyeing, the sources added. They said the WP maintained that it will not budge on the five GRCs (Aljunied, East Coast, Marine Parade, Nee Soon, Jalan Besar) and five SMCs (Hougang, Punggol East, Fengshan, MacPherson and Sengkang West) which it had declared its interest in, following the release of the electoral boundaries report last month.
Yesterday, both the WP and NSP conducted house visits in Serangoon Central — which falls under Marine Parade GRC — with the two entourages only hundreds of metres away from each other.
WP Non-Constituency MP Yee Jenn Jong, who is likely to lead the WP’s team in Marine Parade GRC, told TODAY that his party’s position on the GRC is “firm”. The NSP declined comment, referring to the ongoing discussions that will resume tomorrow.
In the 2011 GE, Mr Yee had contested and lost narrowly in Joo Chiat SMC, which has been absorbed into Marine Parade GRC for the coming elections. Mr Yee said that apart from continuing to walk the ground in Joo Chiat after the GE, he had also started outreach efforts in the rest of the Marine Parade GRC area since “more than a year ago”.
Apart from Mr Yee, WP potential candidate Terence Tan, 44, was also spotted at the party’s house visits in Serangoon Central.
Mr Tan, who was one of the speakers at a WP rally in the Punggol East by-election in 2013, is a lawyer. He is on the legal team representing the Aljunied-Hougang-Punggol East (AHPETC) Town Council in the ongoing court case against the Ministry of National Development. The ministry is appealing against a High Court’s refusal to appoint independent accountants to oversee government grants to the AHPETC.
For the NSP, central executive committee members Steve Chia and Spencer Ng were among party members and supporters canvassing support in Serangoon Central, several blocks of flats away from the WP group.
Political analyst Eugene Tan noted the guiding principle among some in the opposition circles that a party that had contested in a ward would have “the first right to contest there”. “The WP, however, has never explicitly agreed to that,” said the Singapore Management University law don.
While the WP could be seen by the NSP as butting into Marine Parade GRC, “voters may not necessarily see the WP as a bully if it were to contest in both MacPherson and Marine Parade”, said Associate Professor Tan. “They are likely to subscribe (to the belief) that voters should be able to vote for the best candidates from the opposition, rather than having opposition candidates foisted on them as a result of a political compromise.”
Assoc Prof Tan noted the absence of WP leaders Low Thia Khiang and Sylvia Lim from the horse-trading talks on Monday. On the WP’s firm stance on where it would be contesting, he said: “It’s effectively saying that other opposition parties going into a multi-cornered electoral contest with it (and the People’s Action Party) are doing so at their own risk.”
National University of Singapore political scientist Bilveer Singh felt that the NSP has “strong grounds” to contest in Marine Parade GRC and MacPherson SMC. “What happens when two rationalities clash? In politics you give and take, something the Opposition is not good at in Singapore so far,” he said.
He felt that opposition parties such as WP and NSP have “already put the cart before the horse and that is going to make horse trading next to impossible”. “Whenever the (opposition) parties clash among themselves, simple logic tells you that it will benefit the incumbent, the PAP in this case. The key to the game is reaching a consensus on where each party should contest.”