Political opposition parties are here to stay in Singapore and more uncertain elections are to come in the future, said Deputy Prime Minister and Finance Minister Lawrence Wong on Nov. 6.
He was speaking at the People's Action Party (PAP) Conference and Awards, where the party will be electing the 12 members of its highest decision-making body.
Peace and stability in Singapore came with a cost
While Wong began his address in Chinese, he transitioned to speaking in Malay. He said Malay activists had encouraged him to do so during his visits to PAP branches.
Then speaking in English, he talked about his commitment to serve and give back to the party and country, as someone who has been a huge beneficiary of the Singapore story.
He said that his parents lived through hardship and sacrificed to carve out a living for themselves.
He also joked that his late grandfather Lee Sin Yew is not related to Lee Kuan Yew despite the similar-sounding name.
Wong said the peace and stability in Singapore did not come without a cost, and now we are at the "cusp of new era in history".
In addition to domestic challenges, he brought up the emergence of new cold war between the United States and China, the existential threat of climate change, and higher inflation rates.
These challenges can threaten the social cohesion among people, which is something he hopes to address through the Forward Singapore exercise by engaging all segments of society.
WP won more votes than PAP in contested constituencies
While the PAP has governed Singapore since its independence, there is no such guarantee that this will always be the case, said Wong.
The PAP's review found a stronger desire for checks and balances as well as diversity in the Parliament among Singaporeans.
This signals that the opposition is here to stay.
He also spoke about the Workers' Party (WP), stating that it is now an "established political force" that holds two GRCs and one SMC.
In the 2020 general election (GE), WP contested in six constituencies. Adding up their votes across the constituencies, WP won slightly more votes than PAP.
"What if the Workers' Party had contested more seats? Would the PAP still have won 61 per cent of the votes nationwide? Would we still have returned to power?"
Tougher elections to come
Since being chosen as the leader of the 4G team, Wong remarked that he had never assumed that PAP will win the next GE, or that he will inevitably step into the role of the Prime Minister.
He reminded the party that they cannot assume the PAP will form the government.
"Every election from now on will be about which party forms the government," said Wong.
He said that PAP will work “doubly hard, triply hard" to regain the seats it has lost, which was met with great applause from the audience.
Singapore’s next general election must be held by 2025.
Wong said he has no doubt the political contest will intensify and get more challenging with time, with tougher and more uncertain elections in the future.
He raised the need for PAP to meet Singaporeans where they are, as more young people are getting their news online.
The party has built up its online presence via Facebook, Instagram and Whatsapp in every past general election.
By the next GE, the party might be on TikTok, "or who knows what else might emerge", said Wong.
He emphasised that PAP must win the confidence and trust of Singaporeans and earn a strong mandate to govern.
"We must show through our words and actions that the PAP is the only party with the ability and determination to take Singapore forward," said Wong.
Top image via PAP/FB.