The People’s Action Party (PAP) “must be prepared for a tough fight” in the upcoming general elections, said Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong.
Speaking at the PAP65 Awards and Convention on 10 November, Mr Lee said, “This election is not just about the PAP doing a little bit better or a little bit worse. This election will decide if Singapore can sustain a good and stable government, to be different from other countries for a long time to come.”
He emphasised the challenges facing Singapore on the global stage, from the trade wars between US and China as the country’s recent scuffles with neighbouring Malaysia and Indonesia, saying that the election is “crucial” that Singapore’s government is capable and its leaders firm.
Highlighting the tensions between China and US, Mr Lee said that while neither country has pressed Singapore yet, the pressure is mounting and that managing it will not be an easy feat.
As for relations with Malaysia and Indonesia, Mr lee said that it is good but with difficult issues just under the surface, specifying the water arrangements with Malaysia, South China Sea military training issue with Indonesia, and airspace issues with both countries.
Mr Lee asserted, “Managing these external issues will not be easy. We will need a capable government, leaders who are tactful and firm, who can negotiate skillfully to defuse bilateral issues, and who are confident and have the full backing of the people,” Mr Lee said on Sunday, describing domestic support as “crucial”.
“Others will be watching us closely to see if the PAP wins a strong mandate, especially at a time of leadership transition… It is high stakes, not masak-masak,” he said.
The Prime Minister then called on party activists to help convince the rest of the country to give the PAP a strong mandate in the upcoming elections, which have to be held by April 2021, adding that they have to not only return a strong PAP government but also secure the country for the long term.
Mr Lee then recounted a story about the branch secretary for PAP at Tanjung Pagar during his later father’s time saying, “He once told me that in the most difficult days of Singapore’s independence struggle, people used to say, ‘if you follow LKY, you will be alright.”
The Premier asserted that the generation of leaders led by his father “fought for their convictions and what they did for the people,” explaining that this faith has to be sustained in successive generations of leaders.
Turning then to the newest so-called 4th Generation (4G), Mr Lee said that building this team to carry on the mission was something they have been working on for a while. He added that the leaders know what to expect and are aware of the difficult tasks that await them.
“They deserve our full support. Back them, they are our team, they are Singapore’s team,” he the some 2,500 party activists in attendance.
Mr Lee insisted that the GE will decide “the future of Singapore” and warned that unstable and dysfunctional politics can lead to Singapore losing a lot.
Different GE, same urgency
A similar rhetoric was heard just before the 2015 general elections with the PAP claiming that the party might lose when it eventually won by securing 69.9% of the votes, the highest number of votes it garnered in decades.
At the time, then-Minister for National Development Khaw Boon Wan said, “There is no ‘safe seat’ where victory is assured…We cannot be sure of a PAP government on Sept 12.”
He also said that even if PAP did get re-elected, the country could end up with a weak government that is unable to get anything done for its people.
Mr Khaw had urged voters not to dice with Singapore’s future, saying, “We all know how much damage a weak government, paralysed by constant debate, can do to the country and to the people.”
Mr Khaw also quoted the late Lee Kuan Yew who said in 1995, “We take the future for granted only at our own peril. We have survived because we are a practical and realistic people.”
At the time, Workers’ Party called the PAP out for using scare tactics ahead of pooling. The WP candidate who was leading the team in the East Coast GRC Mr Gerald Giam had clarified that the WP, with its 28 candidates, had no plans of being the government in that election.
Mr Giam said, “Until you hear us say, ‘Vote for us to form the next government’, don’t believe our opponents who say that we have hidden agendas and motives and plans.”
He explained that even a coalition with other opposition parties is not on the table, adding that they couldn’t even avoid three-cornered fights in all constituencies.
At a WP rally, then WP party chief Low Thia Khian, Pritam Singh, and He Ting Ru warned voters about the dangers of having just one party dominate in Parliament, noting that the lack of opposition representation would leave Singaporeans frustrated “like a time bomb waiting to explode”.
Mr Giam also allayed fears that the ruling PAP would lose power by noting that the goal of WP in the 2015 elections was to entrench a credible opposition in Parliament, stressing that “Any result in a free and fair election will be the will of the people.”