As the mystery of whether or not a General Election is going to be held in Singapore imminently in the midst of the global Corona Virus outbreak continues, polls have been taken by Yahoo and Lianhe Zaobao as to where Singaporeans stand on this matter.
Looking at the results of the polls, it would seem that most Singaporeans are of the opinion that the General Elections should not be held at a time when we should really be practicing social distancing. It should be noted that the poll undertaken by Lianhe Zaobao has since been removed for reasons that have not yet been confirmed at the time of writing.
It is important to note that the government has hitherto not given firm indications of whether or not such a General Election will be held and in the absence of clarity, speculation continues to abound.
According to reports, Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong (PM Lee) mentioned in an interview on 27 March that the election can still be conducted with social media and the Internet as long as the proper measures are in place, although it might not be the most ideal solution. This begs the question of what PM Lee meant by “proper”. Will people summit their votes online or post? Will they have to come out to vote? The list goes on.
If people still have to come out to vote, who bears the liability if these voters later fall ill? Will the government be responsible for those who fall ill as a result?
Empirical evidence has already proven that social distancing at times of pandemics help significantly to bring down the rates of infection meaning that if people are coming out of their houses to vote, they might run the risk of spreading the infection and getting themselves infected. Is this a risk that the government is prepared to impose on its citizens as the world is shutting down?
I can understand the need for cashing in on political capital but if the risk is imposed on the populace, then the government may need to consider how it will compensate people if they do fall ill and spread the disease?
Let me present a hypothetical with some assumptions:
1. the election goes ahead;
2. the Peoples’ Action Party (PAP) win the huge majority that they are projected to win anyway; and
3. the rate of infection does spike.
Would this be worthwhile for the people of Singapore? Realistically, the PAP will win anyway so what is there to gain? Plus with the PAP returned to power for another mandate of 5 years, will they then be held to account for the spike in infection as a result of the elections, or death if any?
In 5 years time, the mistakes of today might seem far away and forgotten. Is this fair for affected Singaporeans?
Looking at the facts to hand, there is absolutely no need for the elections to be held now. The PAP are projected to win a majority nevertheless (unless there is something we don’t know about), so what is the rush?
Balanced against the possibility of greater infection, why take the risk? Most presciently, who will bear the responsibility if there is a health fallout as a result of the elections going ahead? The PAP will already have another 5 years. Who bears the liability?