Opposition parties deliberate contesting in Bukit Batok by-election

The Bukit Batok Single Member Constituency (SMC) seat has been left vacant since People’s Action Party’s (PAP) Member of Parliament (MP) David Ong announced his resignation on 12 March, citing “personal reasons.”

In light of this, Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong has stated that a by-election will be held in Bukit Batok SMC. Opposition parties, as well as independent candidates have since responded to Mr Ong’s resignation, coming forth to state their intentions to contest an upcoming by-election.

Firstly, for the Singapore Democratic Party (SDP), Secretary-General Chee Soon Juan announced in a press release that the SDP would definitely contest the ward. Additionally, members of the SDP went on a walkabout in Bukit Batok SMC on 13 March, speaking to residents at various coffee shops in the area. The party has stated that their campaign team has already begun preparations for the by-election.

Secretary-General of the People’s Power Party (PPP) Goh Meng Seng has responded that his party would hold discussions with the SDP and would take their plans into consideration before deciding if the PPP should contest in the by-election. This is due to the location of the electoral boundaries of Bukit Batok SMC right next to Chua Chu Kang Group Representation Constituency (GRC).

Chief of the Democratic Progressive Party (DPP) Benjamin Pwee has also expressed interest in the vacant seat, stating that he would be contesting in the by-election.

Other parties that have yet to announce their plans regarding the by-election include the Singapore Democratic Alliance (SDA), the National Solidarity Party (NSP) as well as the Reform Party (RP).

NSP Secretary-General Lim Tean stated that his party would have to consider carefully and monitor the situation before any confirmation was to be made. In the same manner.

Chairman Desmond Lim of SDA and Secretary-General Kenneth Jeyaretnam of RP required discussions with their respective Central Executive Committee party members in order to make a decision.

Independent candidate Samir Salim Neji has also expressed his interest in contesting in the by-election. Mr Samir had previously contested the Bukit Batok SMC during the General Elections in 2015.

Conversely, the Workers’ Party (WP) will not be contesting the ward. This was announced by WP chairman Sylvia Lim on 14 March, where she highlighted two key reasons behind the party’s decision.

She stated that firstly, the WP “had not been active in the area.” Secondly, the SDP had already expressed interest in contesting in the by-election and had also contested the SMC in the General Elections in 2015. Ms Lim noted that Bukit Batok SMC was an area traditionally contested by SDP.

Deputy Prime Minister Tharman Shanmugaratnam said on 14 March that the People’s Action Party (PAP) had a number of “strong candidates” currently in consideration for the upcoming by-election. The candidates in consideration were not revealed.

PM Lee has not yet announced when the by-election will be held, which allows for time to consider and assess the situation before parties make their decisions on whether or not to contest. Previously with the Hougang by-election in 2012, it was around 90 days after the seat was declared vacant that the by-election took place.

A judgement by the Court of Appeal in 2012 on Madam Vellama Marie Muthu’s application in regards to the Hougang by-eleciton, said that PM must call an election to fill a vacancy “within a reasonable time”, though he is “entitled to take into account all relevant circumstances”. The apex court added that there can be judicial intervention only in clear cases