It would be “unconscionable” for the ruling People’s Action Party (PAP) to hold an election soon after Malaysia announced its 14-day movement control order, said the Singapore Democratic Party (SDP) in a statement on Tue (17 Mar).
Malaysians are prohibited from travelling out of the country during the period in which the order takes effect starting tomorrow, which may affect the arrangements of many Malaysians currently employed in Singapore but are residing in Johor.
The SDP said that “people in Malaysia started making their way to Singapore last night and will undoubtedly continue today”.
Many of them, said the party, “may already be infected with the virus” but appear asymptomatic.
“It may take a couple of weeks more before their health deteriorates by which time they may have spread the disease even wider among Singaporeans,” the SDP warned.
Such a prospect is worrying considering Singapore has witnessed a surge in cases — mostly imported — over the past week “with a record 17 new infections” yesterday, said the party.
“Given such developments, it is even more reason for the GE not to be held at this time. If infections escalate to a point where thousands need to be quarantined or issued Stay Home Notices, these voters would be denied their right to elect their MPs,” said SDP.
Further, electors who fall within the demographics of those most susceptible to COVID-19 such as the elderly “may be deterred from coming out to vote”, the party added.
“And if candidates are affected, they may not be able to campaign or manage their campaigns. Worse, they may not even be able to register as candidates if they are not allowed to be present at nomination centres to present their papers,” SDP cautioned.
The SDP stressed that in addition to the above, the nine days of a GE campaign in Singapore “are probably the only times that the Singaporeans get to hear frank and open public debates about the policies that affect their daily lives”.
“They allow the public to be informed of what is at stake and the nation to go to the polls with clarity of will and purpose,” the party stressed, highlighting “grave and long-term issues” such as “foreigner influx, housing, job security and the cost of living”.
Thus, if the process of debating the above is eclipsed by the nation’s “collective anxiety” regarding the COVID-19 outbreak, an administration “elected under such circumstances based on political opportunism will cause much unhappiness among the electorate”, the SDP charged.
“Elections are about major national issues that will determine our nation’s future. These issues and policies must be properly debated.
“A mandate obtained from a properly held election will give a government moral and political gravitas to govern,” said the SDP.
“The Covid-19 outbreak will pass. When the international community gains control over the pandemic and resources are mobilised globally, things will start to improve. The GE can be held then, not before,” concluded the party.
Previously, the SDP said that the Government should “categorically rule out’ holding the next General Election (GE) until “clear signs” of COVID-19 subsiding arise, urged two Singapore opposition parties.
The party on 13 Mar expressed its hope that 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.
SDP’s statement was made following the release of the Electoral Boundaries Review Committee (EBRC) report the same day, which included recommendations such as wiping out six-member Group Representation Constituencies (GRCs) and adding more electoral divisions and Parliamentary seats in the next GE.
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.