According to activists from People’s Action Party (PAP), the next general election could be held as soon as May, according to a report by The New Paper early this morning (17 March).
An anonymous senior party activist speaking to The Straits Times said that the stabilisation of coronavirus cases would impact the timing of the polls, adding that he doesn’t think the elections will happen next month.
“We have to wait for the 30-day window that Minister Lawrence Wong mentioned – it has to be safe enough for people to vote,” said the activist.
“(GE is) likely to be in May, as long as things stabilise. The PM is then likely to press the button (for us to go). We can’t say for sure this will happen, but this is what we are anticipating,” he added.
The 30-day period is in reference to National Development Minister Lawrence Wong’s announcement on Sunday (15 March) in which he issued a travel advisory for Singaporeans to defer all non-essential travel abroad.
He also announced that all travellers entering Singapore who have visited other ASEAN countries, Japan, Switzerland and the United Kingdom in the past two weeks will be issued a 14-day stay-home notice.
TNP notes that another reason elections might not take place in April is that the electoral registers have to be updated. Based on Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong’s Facebook post on Saturday (14 March), the GE can only be called after that is done, which can take up to a month. Only after that can parliament be dissolved followed by the issuance of the writ of election.
Now, the Electoral Boundaries Review Committee released its report on boundary revisions on 13 March, seven months after the committee was formed. Historically, the release of the report signals that elections are imminent.
Given the public health concerns, some of the PAP activists that ST spoke to are expecting live-streaming of townhall sessions would replace mass rallies.
Opposition urges the government to focus on COVID-19 instead of elections
The Singapore Democratic Party (SDP) said on Friday that it hopes the PAP “will not capitalised on the crisis” by holding the GE during this time. SDP said that this would ”take away valuable resources needed to combat the virus outbreak and jeopardise the public’s health and well-being”.
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”.
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 on Saturday.
Speaking to TOC in response to a query, the Progress Singapore Party (PSP) stressed the importance of focusing on fighting the outbreak for now.
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.
Meanwhile, the 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.
“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.
People’s Power Party secretary-general Goh Meng Seng said that calling for elections during the outbreak along with “gerrymandering” of electoral boundaries will backfire against the PAP, adding that an election during the outbreak would require all parties to take extra precautions.
He said, “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.”
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 on 15 March, WP said that while it does not want to partake in speculation, it urges the government to take caution and exercise judiciousness in calling for a GE.
“Whatever decision that is made must be one that is in the the best interests of Singapore, our democracy and the public health of Singaporeans.” said the party.