The Government should hold off calling the next General Election (GE) until clear signs of COVID-19 subsiding arise, urged opposition parties in Singapore.
This was in response to the sudden but long-awaited announcement of the boundaries revision by the Election Boundaries Review Committee after close to eight months of reviewing.
Singapore Democratic Party
The Singapore Democratic Party (SDP) in a statement on Fri (13 Mar) expressed its hope that the ruling People’s Action Party (PAP) “will not capitalise on the crisis” by holding the GE during this period.
Holding an election at this time, said SDP, “take away valuable resources needed to combat the virus outbreak and jeopardise the public’s health and well-being”.
Given the varying expert opinions on when the pandemic will end, the party said that there is “no urgency to hold an election in the midst of this crisis”.
To “prematurely” call for an election at this stage, said SDP, would “signal that the PAP is putting its own interests over the people’s safety”.
“The situation in Singapore has flared up again and could worsen considerably in the coming weeks and months … Our priority is to rid ourselves of this health threat. Elections can come later,” added the party.
Singapore People’s Party
Singapore People’s Party (SPP) similarly urged the Government to hold off the GE at this time, as this is “not the time for partisan politics”.
Holding an election “when the situation is rapidly evolving” would be “nothing less than irresponsible” on the part of the Government, said the party in a statement today.
“We trust that the Government will exhibit consistency with its position, most recently encapsulated in PM Lee’s statement dated 12 March 2020, to take precautions, avoid mass gatherings and dedicate resources to fighting this outbreak.
“We are confident that the Government will not risk exacerbating the outbreak by calling for a general election before the situation has stabilised. There is nothing more important than the health of all Singaporeans,” said SPP.
Progress Singapore Party
Progress Singapore Party (PSP) told TOC in response to a query that while it is prepared for GE at any time, PSP stressed the importance of focusing on fighting the Covid-19 outbreak for now.
With more than a year to go before reaching the constitutional time limit for the GE, PSP is of the view that we should concentrate on fighting the Covid-19 for now.
Singaporeans First Party
Singaporeans First party chief Tan Jee Say said that ruling out holding a GE at “until the threat of a community spread of the coronavirus has been convincingly eliminated” is “the only responsible thing to do” at this point.
“It would be highly irresponsible of the PAP to call for a general election in the midst of the coronavirus outbreak. Large events that attract crowds like sports, church services have already been cancelled or suspended,” he wrote in a Facebook post on Fri.
“Our immediate concern should be to free up all resources to save lives and protect public health,” added Mr Tan, noting that the Election Commission in the United Kingdom has recommended postponing the May local elections to the autumn.
“Our public health authority should make its view heard on this matter with regard to our own situation vis a vis the timing of the GE,” he added.
People’s Voice Party
People’s Voice Party (PV) chief Lim Tean similarly highlighted the decision of the Electoral Commission In England to postpone local elections in the midst of the Covid-19 outbreak.
The local elections, which were due by 7 May have been pushed back by a year, he noted.
“Compare this to the increasing likelihood of the PAP plunging our Nation into the General Elections during the crisis, for their own selfish purposes,” charged Mr Lim.
He stressed that PV will “never endanger public health”, and urges the ruling party to hold the GE “only after the crisis is over”.
People’s Power Party
People’s Power Party (PPP) chief Goh Meng Seng said that holding an election at this point in time will not only endanger public health, but it will also “undermine our already limited democratic system when mass rallies will be either restricted or even banned due to the need of Social Distancing measures”.
“As the ruling party, PAP should focus on managing this crisis instead of distracting itself with GE.
“We would urge PAP to put public health and interests as its first priority instead of its own party’s interests,” said Mr Goh.
Workers’ Party (WP), the only opposition party to have representatives in Parliament currently, however did not comment on whether the timing of the upcoming GE is reasonable.
In a statement yesterday, WP said that on its part, it “will decide on the areas where it can best serve Singaporeans, and make its announcement when the elections are called”.
The party, however, questioned the Electoral Boundaries Review Committee (EBRC) decision to carve out some new SMCs while dissolving Sengkang West, Fengshan and Punggol East SMCs — areas where WP has been active for many years.
With the announcement of the new electoral boundaries, President Halimah Yacob is expected to dissolve Parliament on the advice of Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong’s advice.
Previously in 2015, the EBRC released its report on 24 Jul, a month prior to the dissolution of Parliament. Voting took place on 11 Sep that year.
Based on the signs, it is likely that the PAP aims to call for a snap election to be held just before the fasting month of Ramadan, with the polling day held on 18 April.
With the ongoing Covid-19 threat in place, PAP will likely omit rallies from its election campaign, forcing the opposition to rely on mainstream media reports and their own social media machinery — which are barely a match for the ruling party’s.