More surprises likely as hopefuls head to nomination centres today

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Hopefuls head to nomination centres, with record number of parties contesting

Parliamentary hopefuls from 11 political parties will head to nine nomination centres today to register for the general election.

The upcoming polls have already thrown up some surprises, and political watchers said more drama might unfold during the nomination process this morning.

While the ruling People's Action Party (PAP) is likely to face a contest in all 93 seats, and perhaps even see three-cornered fights in a number of single-member constituencies (SMCs), uncertainty remains as many parties - including the PAP itself - are keeping their cards close to the chest.

Never before have so many political parties contested a general election in Singapore's history, opening up possibilities for tactical switches during today's hour-long nomination process.

Unlike the election in 2015, the PAP has not unveiled its full slate for every group representation constituency (GRC) and SMC in advance of Nomination Day. For instance, it remains to be seen which minister will helm the PAP team in East Coast GRC, where former Manpower Minister Lim Swee Say and former Senior Minister of State for Trade and Industry and National Development Lee Yi Shyan are likely to step down.

The PAP is likely to see a keen fight there against the Workers' Party (WP), where it won with 54.8 per cent of the votes in 2011.

West Coast GRC is another ward to watch, where former PAP stalwart and now Progress Singapore Party (PSP) secretary-general Tan Cheng Bock will face off against Minister for Communications and Information and Minister-in-charge of Cyber Security S. Iswaran's team.

The former PAP MP for Ayer Rajah SMC, whose old ward is now part of West Coast GRC, also intends to field a team in Tanjong Pagar GRC. He has not revealed whether his party wildcard Lee Hsien Yang, Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong's brother, will stand in this election.

"The fact that he is (Lee Hsien Yang) now a member of the PSP means there's always the possibility he might well decide to throw his name into the ring today," said Dr Mustafa Izzuddin, an analyst with consultancy Solaris Strategies Singapore.

Many eyes will also be on Aljunied, the only opposition-held GRC, which will be entering battle without WP veteran and former leader Low Thia Khiang, who is retiring from politics.

Regarding Make Your Vote Count as WP's slogan this year, its secretary-general Pritam Singh said on Sunday there was a "real risk of wipeout" of elected opposition MPs. The WP is fielding 21 candidates this election, compared to 28 in 2015.

But PM Lee said the WP's suggestion that the PAP could win all 93 seats is unrealistic and an election tactic. "There are real problems on the ground which cause people concern, and we can feel it," he said yesterday.

Polling Day is July 10.

Dr Mustafa noted the WP has adopted a defensive posture as it is undergoing party renewal and does not want to overstretch itself. Their slogan and "wipeout" message are aimed at Aljunied, where "they hope to be able to swing back some of the middle ground voters who voted for the PAP in 2015", he added.