Parliament introduces Bill to enable special arrangements for voters and candidates bound by COVID-19 restrictions

Parliament introduces Bill to enable special arrangements for voters and candidates bound by COVID-19 restrictions

Parliament on Tue (7 Apr) introduced a Bill that will enable voters and candidates who are bound by government-mandated restrictions related to COVID-19 to take part in the next general election (GE) should it be held before the pandemic subsides.
Minister for Trade and Industry Chan Chun Sing today announced the creation of a Parliamentary Elections (COVID-19 Special Arrangements) Bill, which will enable voters subject to Stay-Home Notices to cast their ballots outside their electoral divisions such as the designated facilities at which they are staying.
Provisions in the Bill will also allow candidates to authorise a representative to file their nomination paper for them on Nomination Day if they are unwell and/or bound by a COVID-19 quarantine order or SHN.
The Elections Department (ELD) said in a statement that provisions in the proposed legislation, however, are temporary measures designed to “ensure the safety of voters, candidates and election officials” if the next GE is held during the COVID-19 outbreak. They will not apply to any election held after the stipulated date.
The next GE, by law, must be held by 14 Apr next year.
Currently, the Parliamentary Election Act requires aspiring candidates to file nomination papers in person.
“The health and safety of voters, candidates and elections official are paramount,” ELD said.
The department added that it is currently reviewing its election processes and “putting in place the necessary precautionary measures, in compliance with prevailing advisories from the Ministry of Health”.
The Bill will be debated at the next available Parliament sitting, which is expected to take place sometime next month.

Election contractor hints at possibility of GE taking place in May or June

With the release of the Electoral Boundaries Review Committee (EBRC) report on 13 Mar and the introduction of the new Bill, it is inevitable to wonder if the next GE is just around the corner.
GEs are typically called within two months of the EBRC report being released, based on observation in the past four GEs. In 2001, elections were called less than a month after the report was released.
However, given the current circumstances, the situation on the ground has certainly changed. Precautionary measures and strict regulations have been put in place since the country reported its first case of the virus.
Although the Government has not confirmed if it already has a timeframe of when the GE might be held, TOC has received several tip-offs that the ELD is in fact already preparing for an election in one or two months’ time.
The first one referred to a job advertisement relating to elections preparation on various job-seeking platforms. This tallies with the job advertisements TOC has found online looking for temporary ‘event assistants’ posted by a recruitment agency. The listing noted that training will be held between 2 to 11 April.
The listings we found on different job-seeking websites also stated that the applicant has to be available “between May to June to locate in various locations”.
Another tip-off TOC received was from a participant to the training session who confirmed that the job was meant to provide logistic support for the election.
According to the temp job seeker, the trainees are told to keep themselves free between May and June period. The trainees are tasked to help out on setting up of the polling centre and also the operation of the Election Operation Tracking System.
The photographs below shows a setup that is meant to simulate a polling centre. Presumably, this would be where the training is conducted.

Mock-up polling centre set up by ST Synthesis
The company conducting the training is called ST Synthesis, a subsidiary of ST Technologies, which itself is largely held by Temasek Holdings.
The CEO of Temasek Holdings is Ho Ching, the wife of Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong.
According to government tender records, the company was awarded a tender by the ELD in 2015 for the “provision of total logistics support for elections and warehousing services for six (6) years with the option to extend for another six (6) years”.
This lends weight to the idea that the GE was planned to be held in May or June, as the company is involved in election logistics.
The company had also reportedly told the trainees that they will be only paid for their training session after they have turned up for the temp work in May or June, as it is uncertain whether they would turn up for the actual event.

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