Singapore is scheduled to hold its general election on July 10 — a little over a month after the country began to ease restrictions aimed at containing one of the largest outbreaks of coronavirus in Southeast Asia.
The ruling party of Singapore, the People’s Party of Action, had never before lost an election and ruled a city-state from 1959 until the country’s independence in 1965.
The upcoming elections are preparing to be different from the previous ones. Here are five reasons to watch the next election in Singapore.
The country in Southeast Asia is not the first to hold a popular vote in the midst of a pandemic. In April, parliamentary elections were held in South Korea, which led to a decisive victory for President Moon Jae-in’s party.
While the South Korean government was largely praised for treating the virus during its election, Singapore’s response – which was originally seen as worldwide success – lost some of its brilliance due to the outbreak. in dormitories where migrant workers live.
According to the Ministry of Health, these workers — usually men from other Asian countries who work in low-paid and labor-intensive jobs — account for more than 90% of nearly 44,000 confirmed infections in Singapore.
The total number of new cases reported daily is still in the hundreds. However, declining infections outside the dormitories led the Singapore government to weaken most of its partial containment measures last month, paving the way for elections.
However, some observers have warned that infections in the wider community may grow ahead of the July 10 vote.
“Any surge in community affairs … before election day can lead to criticism of the government’s decision and, consequently, negatively affect its approval rating,” a report released last week by the Economist Intelligence Unit consulting service.
Economic crisis is coming
The coronavirus pandemic hit Singapore at a time when its open and trade-dependent economy was already feeling the effects of a trade war between the US and China.
Singapore predicts the worst economic downturn since independence in 1965. This year, the economy is expected to contract by 4-7%, according to official estimates.
In the past, times of crisis helped the ruling party win larger election victories, as voters preferred a firm hand to lead the country. In the 2001 general election, which took place shortly after the September 11 attacks in the United States, party received 75.3% of the vote,
But such an “escape to safety” often occurred at the beginning of a crisis, rather than in the middle, says Eugene Tan, associate professor of law at Singapore University of Management.
“I think that Singapore is now in the run-up to the storm, and how the government has so far managed to cope with the crisis, I think it will be very carefully monitored during the campaign,” Tan said last week in an interview with CNBC’s Squawk Box Asia “. ,
“I don’t think that everything is clear that this is a general election that will be favorable to the ruling party, it is likely that this will happen, but we should not exclude the possibility that voters may have a different opinion,” Tan said. regular commentator on Singapore policy.
Changing of the Guard
Singaporean Prime Minister Lee Hsien Lung said earlier that he was ready to resign by the time he turns 70 years old. Lee, who has held the top position since 2004, is now 68 years old, which means that the upcoming elections could be his last prime minister.
Lee is only the third prime minister of Singapore since independence. He is the son of the late Prime Minister of the city state, the late Lee Kuan Yu.
The current Deputy Prime Minister and Minister of Finance Heng Soo Kit is doomed to replace Li. Han and a group of cabinet ministers called fourth-generation or 4G leaders were at the forefront of the country’s response to the outbreak of coronavirus.
It is expected that these ministers will play a more important role in leading the ruling People’s Party of Action, or PAP, in the upcoming elections.
Only the second time since Singapore gained independence, all 93 parliamentary seats that could be obtained in the elections will be challenged. The ruling PAP is the only one that has nominated candidates for every seat.
PAP won all elections from independence – often even until election day, because opposition parties sometimes nominated candidates for only a few seats, The last elections in 2015 were first challenged at every parliamentary seat.
Last week, Prime Minister Lee Xian Yang’s younger brother joined the opposition party. Although the younger Lee is not running for election, he is expected to help gather opposition support.
Li Xian Yang, the son of the founder of Singapore, Prime Minister Lee Kuan Yew and the younger brother of current Prime Minister Li Xian Lun, joins the opposition Progress Singapore Party.
Suhaymi Abdullah | Getty images
Their father, Lee Kuan Yew, co-founded the ruling party and was Singapore’s longest prime minister from 1959 to 1990. He is widely credited with the development of Singapore – a former British colony – from a third world country to a developed city. state it today.
Safe Campaigning and Voting
Elections in the middle of a coronavirus outbreak mean that political parties will have to abandon the traditional way of campaigning. Chief among them are mass rallies – one of the most common ways to attract candidates to voters.
In accordance with the guidelines developed by the Election Division, campaigning and public walks are still permitted, subject to rules such as restricting each group to five, wearing masks and maintaining a safe distance.
The guidelines say that to make up for the lack of physical rallies, political parties will get more airtime for campaigning on free television channels. Candidates can also broadcast live online broadcasts, he added.
On election day, temperature checks and other hygiene measures will be conducted at all polling stations, the department said. To avoid overcrowding, there will also be more polling stations and voters will be given the recommended two-hour voting interval, he added.