SINGAPORE — If the COVID-19 coronavirus pandemic stabilises in Singapore, the next general election could be held in early May, reported The Straits Times on Tuesday (17 March).
Changes to the electoral boundaries were announced last Friday (13 March), leading to speculation that the Singapore government is about to call an election, even as several leaders – including Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong – said that they expect the COVID-19 pandemic to be prolonged and to worsen before it improves.
Various opposition parties have since come out to urge the government to postpone the election until the COVID-19 pandemic is under control. Under the country’s constitution, the next general election has to be held before 15 April 2021.
Waiting out travel advisory
An activist from the ruling People’s Action Party (PAP) told The Straits Times that he does not see the election happening in April this year, as the government would have to wait out the 30-day travel advisory announced by National Development Minister Lawrence Wong on Sunday, which cautioned Singaporeans against non-essential travel overseas.
“It is likely to be in May, as long as things stabilise. We can’t say for sure this will happen, but this is what we are anticipating,” the activist said.
Another senior PAP party activist noted that the government needs to dissolve Parliament before an election can happen. Furthermore, Deputy Prime Minister Heng Swee Keat has yet to announce the second tranche of support measures to tide businesses and Singaporeans through this pandemic.
“When people see results, with cases declining and things looking stable, it will have a feel-good effect – that the government handled this well and can be trusted.”
Prevailing sentiment is to settle GE as soon as possible
Party activists added that the prevailing sentiment within the PAP is to get the general election settled as soon as possible, so that the government can focus on dealing with the COVID-19 situation.
However, there are also concerns that, should the general election be called in early May, it may clash with the Muslim fasting month of Ramadan.
Calling an election in the middle of a crisis situation could also backfire against the PAP, should the public feel the party is jeopardising their safety, in spite of any precautionary measures being taken.
Some activists are expecting live-streamed town hall sessions to replace public rallies, although they are concerned that the less tech-savvy older voters would not be reached by such online sessions.
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