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Independent Tan Lam Siong to stand in Potong Pasir, setting up 3-way fight

SINGAPORE — The Potong Pasir Single Member Constituency (SMC) is set for a three-cornered fight in the coming General Election (GE), after former National Solidarity Party (NSP) secretary-general Tan Lam Siong said yesterday that he will not be easily dissuaded by any opposition parties from his intention to contest in the ward as an independent candidate.

Independent Tan Lam Siong to stand in Potong Pasir, setting up 3-way fight

Mr Tan (centre), who was not invited to the opposition talks on Monday, said he was doing his outreach activities nearby. He said political parties ride roughshod over independent candidates. Photo: Jason Quah

SINGAPORE — The Potong Pasir Single Member Constituency (SMC) is set for a three-cornered fight in the coming General Election (GE), after former National Solidarity Party (NSP) secretary-general Tan Lam Siong said yesterday that he will not be easily dissuaded by any opposition parties from his intention to contest in the ward as an independent candidate.

“My stand has always been it’s good for (voters) to have as many choices as possible and there’s no reason I should step aside unless I’m given a very, very good reason,” he told reporters outside NSP’s Jalan Besar headquarters as a meeting among opposition parties was being held inside the building.

Mr Tan, who was not invited to the talks, said he was doing his outreach activities nearby and popped over to “see whether (the opposition parties) came to some kind of conclusion as to what they intend me to do”.

Should Mr Tan succeed in putting his name forward come Nomination Day, he would be the first independent candidate to contest the elections in 14 years. Independent candidates had been a regular feature of every GE between 1955 and 2001, with the exception of 1980.

However, there were no independent candidates in the last two GEs in 2006 and 2011. In the elections held four years ago, several independent hopefuls — including familiar faces, former private tutor Ooi Boon Ewe and ex-acupuncturist Zeng Guoyan — turned up on Nomination Day, but did not manage to file their papers. A team of independents fronted by Mr Ng Teck Siong, who is currently the chairman of Socialist Front, who had wanted to stand in Tanjong Pagar GRC was disqualified after submitting their nomination papers late.

Writing on his blog on Tuesday, Mr Tan addressed criticism against him for possibly diluting the opposition’s vote share in Potong Pasir by not stepping aside, and giving the Singapore People’s Party’s Non-Constituency Member of Parliament (MP) Lina Chiam a clear run against the incumbent People’s Action Party.

In a post titled, “10 Reasons Why I Should Not Be Asked Not To Contest In Potong Pasir SMC”, he described the horse-trading discussion as “undemocratic”, as it “deprives the electorate of a real choice”.

“If we believe in greater democracy, why do we engage in the unsavoury practice of giving priority to a political party or candidate by virtue of their earlier participation. Carried to its logical conclusion, where does that leave future parties or candidates to stand for election if all the wards are ‘choped’ ... like ‘choping’ seats in a hawker centre by those who came earlier?”

Mr Tan also said there is “no ‘opposition unity’ to speak of and some parties are apparently more equal than others”. He added: “Political parties ride roughshod over independent candidates and only those contesting against the ruling party under a party banner are invited to discussions on the GE.”

Political analysts noted that independent hopefuls face an uphill battle given the crowded electoral landscape today and their historically poor track record.

Singapore Management University (SMU) law don Eugene Tan noted that Singapore’s political system has, from the outset, been party-based. “Over the years, the PAP government has sought to mould a political system in which elections are not only about choosing a representative for the legislature, but also about electing a government,” he said. “Independent candidates do not quite fit into this political paradigm.”

Mr Tan Lam Siong said that his team and supporters will help him run the town council if he is elected. However, SMU’s Associate Professor Tan felt that voters would question whether an independent candidate, if elected, can run a town council.

National University of Singapore (NUS) sociologist Tan Ern Ser added: “They must be seen as having the organisational support to engage and assist residents on a sustained basis.”

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