Singapore opposition Workers' Party fears 'wipe-out' as election nears

SINGAPORE (Reuters) - The leader of Singapore’s only opposition party with members in parliament said there is a real risk it could lose all its seats as the city-state prepares for an election in coming years.

Singapore’s ruling People’s Action Party (PAP) has governed the global financial hub since its independence over half a century ago, never seen its vote share drop below 60 percent and currently holds all but six of 89 elected seats in parliament.

Singapore is due to hold its next national ballot by early 2021, but analysts say it could come as soon as this year.

“Let us never forget that we only have a toe-hold in parliament... The risk of a wipe-out with no elected opposition represented by the Workers’ Party is a real one,” Pritam Singh, the party’s secretary general, told a forum on Sunday.

Singh said the party’s aim should be to win a third of the seats in parliament but that this was a “high bar” given an “uneven” political playing field with the PAP.

A spokesman for the PAP did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong said in parliament last year opposition parties such as the Workers’ Party keep Singapore politics “contestable” and the PAP did not have “a monopoly of power” or the right to rule the country indefinitely.

“So long as the PAP government performs, it keeps the voters’ support, it stays in power and the opposition cannot gain ground. But if the PAP government becomes incompetent or corrupt, then of course the opposition will grow.”

Singh added he hoped for a credible opposition to change the political landscape to one “which is caring and confident about the future, not one that is framed by libel suit after libel suit against one’s opponents, be they in politics or civil society.”

Three of the Workers’ Party leadership, including Singh, are fighting civil lawsuits related to alleged financial mismanagement in town councils. The suits could result in bankruptcy which would see them lose their seats.

Prime Minister Lee - son of the city-state’s founding father Lee Kuan Yew - filed a defamation suit last month against a financial adviser and blogger who shared an article on his Facebook page about Lee and Malaysia’s 1MDB state fund.

Reporting by John Geddie and Fathin Ungku; Editing by Nick Macfie