Singapore dissident to run for office in 2016

One of Singapore's most outspoken opposition politicians said on Wednesday he plans to run for parliament again after settling defamation damages awarded to two former prime ministers.

"I look forward to standing for elections in 2016," Chee Soon Juan, 50, the Secretary-General of the Singapore Democratic Party (SDP), told AFP.

Chee was declared bankrupt in 2006 after failing to pay his debts to former prime ministers Lee Kuan Yew and Goh Chok Tong. Singaporean law bans people who are bankrupt from running for parliament.

The government's Insolvency and Public Trustee's Office confirmed Wednesday that Chee, a vocal critic of the ruling People's Action Party (PAP) once led by Lee and Goh, will have his bankruptcy formally annulled on Friday.

Chee became ineligible to run for office in 2006 after failing to pay Sg$500,000 (around US$400,000 at current rates) in damages awarded to Lee and Goh over remarks he made in the 2001 general election.

In July this year, Chee offered to pay them Sg$30,000 to settle his debts, which Lee and Goh accepted.

The PAP has dominated Singapore politics since 1959 and its leaders have in the past been accused by critics of using lawsuits to sideline opponents -- something they said they needed to do to protect their reputations.

Chee, who raised the money to pay his debts through public donations and proceeds from a book, said his exit from bankruptcy "means that the party is further strengthened as far as the next elections are concerned".

His party failed to win a single seat in the 2011 election, which saw the PAP receive an all-time low of 60 percent of the vote but still win 81 seats in the 87-member parliament.

The opposition took the remaining six seats, despite winning 40 percent of the vote, under a system critics see as stacked in favour of the PAP.