Despite opposition parties in Singapore urging to hold off the next general election (GE) until the COVID-19 pandemic subsides, the Elections Department (ELD) announced today (3 April) that the next GE must be held by 14 April 2021 and a bill that sets out contingency plans to ensure a safe election during the COVID-19 outbreak will be tabled in Parliament next week.
The ELD which operates under Prime Minister’s Office, said earlier today (3 April) that the next GE is due to be held by 14 April 2021 and a Bill that sets out contingency plans for precautionary measures to ensure a safe election amid the COVID-19 situation, will be introduced in the Parliament next week.
“The health and safety of voters, candidates and election officials is paramount to us,” said the ELD, adding that the Bill will take effect before the next GE if it is approved, The Straits Times (ST) reported.
ELD added, “The Bill contains the necessary legislative provisions to allow ELD to implement temporary arrangements to ensure the safety of voters, candidates and election officials during parliamentary elections held on or before 14 April 2021.”
Although the ELD has yet to disclose the details of the precautionary measures, based on the current COVID-19 measures that limit gatherings outside of work and school to 10 people or fewer until 30 April, it seems that the traditional forms of campaigning may not be practical at this moment.
Following that, members of parliament (MPs) which are predominately from ruling party, told ST that political parties will resort to social media to reach out to voters.
Opposition parties call for delay of GE till COVID-19 pandemic is over
Since March this year, opposition parties have voiced out to the Government to hold off the next GE until clear signs of COVID-19 subsiding arise.
Progress Singapore Party (PSP) had on various occasions called for the delay of the GE.
Most recently, PSP’s Dr Tan Secretary General, Dr Tan Cheng Bock said that the choice is obvious between holding an early election and potentially causing a far worse health crisis; and delaying the upcoming General Election (GE) to 2021 and face a possible constitutional problem if the election cannot be held by April 2021.
“We are now talking about life and death. Real lives are at stake . We must put all our energies and resources to fight COVID-19. The GE can wait.” said Dr Tan.
Singapore Democratic Party (SDP) had also previously said, that calling for an election at this stage would “take away valuable resources needed to combat the virus outbreak and jeopardise the public’s health and well-being”.
Similarly, the Singapore People’s Party (SPP) urged the Government to hold off the GE at this time, as this is “not the time for partisan politics”.
“As the ruling party, PAP should focus on managing this crisis instead of distracting itself with GE,” said the People’s Power Party (PPP) chief Goh Meng Seng.
In fact, 67.55 percent of 11,635 people disagreed on holding an election during the ongoing coronavirus pandemic, based on a poll by Chinese daily Lianhe Zaobao – Singapore Press Holdings (SPH) daily newspaper – website and 85% of 3292 who voted on a similar poll at Yahoo News.