PAP chairman Lim Boon Heng expects more seats to be contested, given electoral changes
By Cai Haoxiang
The ruling People's Action Party (PAP) can expect to face more contests at the next polls, its chairman Lim Boon Heng said yesterday.
Addressing 1,700 party activists at an awards ceremony, he said it was 'almost certain that more seats will be contested' as the opposition's chances for entering Parliament have increased with changes to the Non-Constituency MP (NCMP) scheme.
At the last general election in 2006, opposition parties contested 47 out of 84 seats, up from 29 out of 84 in 2001.
This year, the Government changed the Constitution to increase the number of opposition MPs in the House from the current minimum of three to a guaranteed number of nine.
From the next general election, as long as the number of elected opposition members falls below nine, their ranks will be topped up to nine by allowing the best-performing losers to be admitted into Parliament as NCMPs.
As a result of this change, Mr Lim predicted yesterday that 'the uncontested constituency is likely to be the exception rather than the norm'.
That will be good for the PAP, he said, as their branches will 'gain battle experience that will be valuable for future elections'. He urged all branches to include as many young people as possible in their election committees.
Recent reports suggest that the opposition may well be working the ground in all 84 wards islandwide.
Mr Lim, who is also Minister in the Prime Minister's Office, was speaking a day ahead of today's PAP party conference, when its cadres will elect a new central executive committee.
Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong's address will cap the conference, the last before the next polls due by February 2012.
On the general election, Mr Lim said: 'I trust all branches have made preparations and are ready, as the Prime Minister can decide to call the general election at any time.'
Election buzz has been on the rise since Oct 30, when Prime Minister Lee revealed that the Electoral Boundaries Review Committee had been convened.
On party renewal, Mr Lim said the coming general election should see the emergence of younger faces who will form the next generation of leaders.
'People will judge not just how able they are, but also how sincere they are,' he said.
Another change is that the electorate will be more diverse and the PAP will need to cater to the aspirations of the young as well as the concerns of the old, he added.
During yesterday's awards ceremony, Mr Lim honoured 338 activists for their contributions to the party, saying they have been a critical force in the party's success since 1959.
Among the award winners was Bukit Gombak branch secretary Kee Wei Heong, 61, who said that his election teams have been 'on standby for the last six months' and have been gathering feedback.
The oldest award recipient, Taman Jurong branch's Mr Lee Kock Meng, 84, has been an active grassroots volunteer for 45 years, since 1965. A retired primary school principal, Mr Lee reflected on changing voter aspirations.
'Last time, voters just want to have a place to stay. Now, they want their children to have a good education, find a good job with a good salary,' he said.
Thanking the activists for their sacrifices, Mr Lim hailed them as the 'soul' of the PAP's political movement. They put a 'human face' to the party's work for the welfare of Singaporeans.
'The future well-being of our people will rest on the outcome of the general election,' he told assembled activists.
'Our party has served the people well in the past 50 years. Together, let us work hard to renew our mandate for the next election term, and put in place the team for the next 20 years.'
[The PAP should be aware that the opposition will be increasing this coming election, and the election changes - more guaranteed opposition with the NCMP scheme, smaller GRCs, more SMCs - are all moves that will encourage the opposition to contest in more wards. This addresses two, possible three issues.
Firstly, Singaporeans have complained that they are 30, 40 years old and have never voted in an election because their ward always gets a PAP walkover.
Secondly, more opposition would be challenging the PAP even without the changes to the election procedures. This way the PAP takes some of the sting out of it, but taking steps to encourage electoral contests.
Thirdly, by having more SMCs and smaller GRCs, they minimise losses, and the number of "lower-quality" opposition members in parliament. Consider, if Sylvia Lim contests in a 5-seat GRC, there is a small chance that her influence may be enough to win the day. If she is contesting in Aljunied like the last election with the same line-up on both sides, she would be in, with 4 "lightweight" or even poor quality opposition. Meanwhile the PAP would lose George Yeo and Lim Hwee Hua - 2 ministers.
But if Aljunied were to become a 4 seat GRC with say Mdm Cynthia Phua or Mr Yeo Guat Kwang splitting off into an SMC, Sylvia Lim might want to consider if she might have a better chance in an SMC, because the electorate may weigh the advantage of voting for Sylvia Lim against the liability of less able opposition members.
The increase in SMCs to 12 (up from 9 currently) may see more opposition members in single seat wards. There are two now, it may be 3 or 4.
Chiam See Tong has indicated plans to pursue a GRC. However, the plans are all falling apart. I doubt he will win because of his age, his health, and his lack of history in a new ward. Moreover, I fear Potong Pasir may revert to PAP without him. However, I do no know what sort of support his wife has, but the people may decide it is time to switch and with him leaving, they would have a good excuse to flip - after all, he abandoned them first.
Low Thia Kiang is safe where he is. Sylvia could take a SMC. And maybe Kenneth Jeyaratnam.
Maybe Chiam and his wife Lina, can come in as NCMPs being the best "losers".]