SINGAPORE — Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong on Tuesday (23 June) urged Singaporeans to “stand completely united” as he called for a snap election that is “like no other” amid the severe impact of the COVID-19 pandemic and other developments.
Lee had advised President Halimah Yacob to dissolve Parliament and issue the Writ of Election. He made the announcement in an address to the nation live at 4pm on Tuesday (23 June), which was broadcast via his Facebook page, and on free-to-air television and radio.
In a statement issued shortly after the announcement, the Prime Minister’s Office said Nomination Day will be next Tuesday, 30 June. Meanwhile, the Elections Department announced that Polling Day will be on Friday 10 July.
Need to ‘clear the decks’
In his 12-and-a-half-minute speech, Lee explained to Singaporeans why he was calling for a snap election.
With no assurance that the pandemic will be over before the current government’s term ends in April, “An election now – when things are relatively stable – will clear the decks, and give the new Government a fresh five-year mandate,” he said.
“Economically, we must brace ourselves for a very tough period ahead. Singapore has not yet felt the full economic fallout from COVID-19, but it is coming,” Lee explained.
“Despite all the measures we have taken, there will be more business closures, and more retrenchments in the coming months. Unemployment will go up,” he added.
Meanwhile, the country also faces external uncertainties, Lee said, noting US-China tensions, the US presidential elections in November, border clashes between China and India, and political developments in Southeast Asia.
To overcome these challenges, he said that Singaporeans “must stand completely united as one people”.
“Singaporeans and the Government must work closely together, with full trust and confidence in each other. The Government must be able to respond promptly and decisively to the COVID-19 outbreak and the economic situation, and to external developments.
“We need a capable Government, with the strong backing of the people, to do all that needs to be done on your behalf, and see us through the tumultuous times,” he added.
Voting safely, campaigning effectively
In his speech, Lee also said that he was satisfied that Singaporeans can head to the polling booths safely and political parties can campaign effectively.
There will be more polling stations set up compared with previous elections, safe distancing measures will be in place, voters will be allocated specific time slots and seniors will be given priority to vote before others, he noted.
For political parties, candidates can still campaign from house-to-house if they observe the safe distancing precautions. “Unfortunately, physical election rallies will not be possible, but we will make up with more opportunities for candidates to speak directly to voters on television, and of course online, for example via live streaming,” Lee added.
Noting that South Korea, Taiwan and several European countries have also conducted their elections amid the pandemic, Lee said, “With our arrangements and precautions in place, I am confident we can hold a proper and safe election.”
Rounding up his speech, Lee said the General Election “will be like no other that we have experienced not just because of the special arrangements to deal with COVID-19, but because of the gravity of the situation, and the issues at stake”.
“The government that you elect will have critical decisions to make,” he added. “These decisions will impact your lives and livelihoods, and shape Singapore for many years to come, far beyond the five-year term of the next government.”
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