Singapore voters line up at a polling station to cast their ballots in the September 11, 2015 general election.
Roslan Rahman wrong? AFP | Getty Images
Singapore is set to hold its general election on July 10 just over a month after the country began easing restrictions aimed at controlling one of Southeast Asia’s largest coronavirus outbreaks.
Singapore’s ruling People’s Action Party has never lost an election before and has ruled the city since 1959, before the country’s independence in 1965.
The upcoming elections are being prepared to be different from the previous ones. Here are five reasons why Singapore’s next election is worth watching.
Cases of coronavirus are still on the rise
Southeast Asia is not the first country to hold a national vote amid the pandemic. South Korea held parliamentary elections in April that resulted in a decisive victory for President Moon Jae’s party.
While the South Korean government was largely praised for its treatment of the virus at the time of its election, Singapore’s response, which was initially seen as a success, lost some of its luster globally due to an outbreak. inside dormitories housing migrant workers.
Those workers, usually men from other low-wage, labor-intensive Asian countries, make up more than 90% of the nearly 44,000 confirmed infections in Singapore, according to the health ministry.
The total number of new cases reported each day continues to rise to hundreds. However, a drop in out-of-dormitory infections prompted the Singapore government to ease most of its partial blocking measures last month, paving the way for the upcoming elections.
However, some observers warned that infections in the wider community could rise ahead of the July 10 vote.
“Surgedo increases community issues … until election day it could lead to criticism of the government’s decision, and therefore will affect its approval of the approval,” the Economic Intelligence Unit said in a note on Sunday. past.
The economic crisis is approaching
The coronavirus pandemic hit Singapore at a time when its open and trade-dependent economy was already feeling the effects of the U.S.-China trade war.
Singapore is predicting its worst economic recession since independence in 1965. The economy is expected to shrink between 4% and 7% this year, according to official estimates.
In the past, times of crisis helped the ruling party record major electoral victories as voters preferred a steady hand to lead the country. In the 2001 general election, which was held shortly after the September 11 attacks in the United States. the party received 75.3% of the vote.
But a “flight to safety” often occurred at the beginning of a crisis, not in the middle of it, said Eugene Tan, an associate professor of law at Singapore’s University of Management.
“I think now Singapore is in the eyes of the storm and how the government has handled the crisis so far, I think it will come under very strong control during the campaign period,” Tan told CNBC’s Squawk Box Asia. last week .
“I don’t think it’s clear that this is the general election that will favor the ruling party, chances are it will happen, but we should not rule out the possibility that voters might get a different opinion,” he said. Tan, a regular political commentator in Singapore.
Change of guards
Singapore’s Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong had previously said he would step down now when he turns 70. Lee, who has held the top job since 2004, is now 68, which means the next election could be his last as prime minister.
Lee is only Singapore’s third prime minister since independence. He is the son of the widely respected founding prime minister of the city, the late Lee Kuan Yew.
The current Deputy Prime Minister and Minister of Finance Heng Swee Keat is interested in following Lee. Heng and a group of cabinet ministers, called the fourth generation, or 4G, leaders have been at the forefront of the country’s response to the coronavirus outbreak.
Those ministers are expected to play a bigger role in leading the ruling People’s Action Party, or PAP, in the upcoming elections.
For the second time since Singapore’s independence, all 93 parliamentary seats ready for election will be contested. The governing PAP is the only one that has run on the ground for each country.
PAP has won every election since independence, often even before election day, because opposition parties sometimes nominated candidates for only a small number of seats.. The last election in 2015 was the first time that any parliamentary seat was contested.
Last week, the prime minister’s younger brother, Lee Hsien Yang, joined an opposition party. Although young Lee is not running in the election, he is expected to help support the opposition rally.
Lee Hsien Yang, the son of Singapore’s founding Prime Minister Lee Kuan Yew and the younger brother of current Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong, joins the Singapore Progress Party of the opposition.
Wrong Suhaimi Abdullah? Getty Images
Their father, Lee Kuan Yew, co-founded the ruling party and was Singapore’s longest-serving prime minister from 1959 to 1990. He was widely believed to have developed Singapore a former British colony from a third world country to a state advanced of the city that is today.
Safe campaign and voting
A choice in the middle of the coronavirus outbreak means that political parties will have to do with the traditional way of campaigning. Leading among them are mass rallies one of the most common methods for candidates to reach voters.
Door-to-door campaigns and community walks are still allowed, subject to rules such as restricting each group to five people, wearing masks and keeping a safe distance, according to instructions issued by the Election Department.
To ensure the absence of physical rallies, political parties will take more broadcast time to campaign on airless TV channels, the guidelines say. Candidates can also hold online rallies, he added.
On election day, temperature control and other hygiene measures will be carried out at all polling stations, the department said. To avoid gathering, there will be more polling stations, and voters will be given a recommended two-hour seat to cast their ballots, he added.
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