Government must 'exercise judiciousness' in calling for election: WP

PHOTO: Workers' Party Facebook page

SINGAPORE — The Workers’ Party (WP) has called on the government to “take caution and exercise judiciousness” in calling for a general election (GE) amid the coronavirus pandemic.

In a statement on Sunday (15 March), Singapore’s leading opposition party noted that the recent release of the Electoral Boundaries Review Committee (EBRC) report has caused “speculation and excitement” over the timing of the next GE. “In line with past experience, the General Election is usually called very soon after the report’s release.”

It added that the current situation facing the country is different, given the COVID-19 outbreak and its impact on the economy. “The Workers’ Party does not want to partake in speculation....Whatever decision that is made must be one that is in the the best interests of Singapore, our democracy and the public health of Singaporeans.”

The EBRC report, which delineates the country’s electoral boundaries, was released on Friday. While there is no set timeline for the government to do so, the release of the report is typically followed by the dissolution of Parliament on the advice of the Prime Minister. The President will then direct the Returning Officer to issue a Writ of Election.

Singapore’s next GE must be held by 15 April 2021.

On Sunday, PM Lee Hsien Loong said in a Facebook post that Singapore faces a decision on whether to wait out the pandemic to hold a normal GE, or to call the GE early to form a government with a full term ahead of it to work on critical tasks ahead.

Together with the release of the EBRC report, Lee’s remarks have prompted much speculation that the GE will be held in the coming months. Opposition parties such as the Singapore Democratic Party (SDP) have decried this possibility, calling it an “irresponsible act” by the ruling People’s Action Party.

On Saturday, Progress Singapore Party chief Tan Cheng Bock strongly urged the government not to hold the GE until COVID-19 is "no longer a crisis". He pointed that doing so would potentially expose more than 2.6 million voters to infection, given that voting is compulsory and voters must head to the polling stations to cast their votes.

Dr Tan suggested three options for holding the election. First, the GE can be held at any time when the COVID-19 crisis is over. Second, the GE can take place at the end of the current government's term in April 2021. Finally, if the COVID-19 situation is not resolved by the end of the term, the President can appoint a caretaker government and the GE can be held after the pandemic is over.

Despite its reservations, the WP said on Sunday, “When the election is called, the Workers’ Party will be ready and prepared for it – as we have been for the last 4 years. We will take the necessary precautions to run a fair and safe campaign.”

As of noon on Saturday, there have been a total of 212 confirmed COVID-19 cases in Singapore, with almost half discharged from hospital.

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