Singapore

Bill proposed to ensure safe and fair elections during virus crisis

Move meant to protect those under quarantine who cannot vote

If the general election were to be held during the coronavirus outbreak, Singaporeans who are quarantined over Covid-19 will not get to vote.

That is because they will be deemed to have broken the law on infectious diseases if they leave their place of isolation to cast their vote.

They will not be penalised for not voting, which is compulsory, and will have their names restored to the electoral rolls unconditionally when the election is over.

This was among the proposed changes to the law in the Parliamentary Elections (Covid-19 Special Arrangements) Bill.

The Bill, meant to provide for the temporary arrangements needed to hold an election safely while Covid-19 measures are in effect, was introduced in Parliament yesterday by Trade and Industry Minister Chan Chun Sing.

Since it emerged that such a Bill was in the works, speculation has been rife on whether an election is near.

Yesterday, the Elections Department (ELD) sought to dispel this idea when responding to queries on behalf of Mr Chan.

Said the ELD: "This Bill forms part of ELD's contingency planning for the next general election. It is not related to the timing of the GE.

"The Prime Minister will decide when to call the election, taking into account the challenges confronting our country, including the evolving Covid-19 situation.

"The Government is fully focused on tackling Covid-19. Our immediate priorities include helping affected Singaporeans and companies, and implementing the circuit breaker measures to slow down the outbreak."

Under the Bill, people on stay orders, who have to remain in their own homes or other boarding premises such as hotels, serviced apartments, hostels or dormitories, will be able to vote.

Those serving their stay-home notice in their own homes will be allowed to vote in their own constituencies.

If they leave their home to cast their ballot, they will not be considered to have breached their stay-home orders.

People serving out their stay-home notice in boarding premises which are not their own homes, will be allowed to vote at special polling stations.

Under the proposed arrangements, voters under stay orders will be required to remove their masks to verify their identity.

NOMINATE

Meanwhile, aspiring electoral candidates will be allowed to nominate a representative to help them file their nomination papers if they are unable or unfit to do so because of a Covid-19 quarantine order or stay order, hospitalisation or ill health.

Under current laws, candidates have to file nomination papers in person.

The Bill will be debated at the next available Parliament sitting, expected to take place next month.

If approved by Parliament, it will take effect before the next general election, which has to be held by April 14 next year.

This means Parliament is not likely to be dissolved during the "circuit breaker" period.

These measures - the strictest to date - took effect yesterday and will last until May 4.

Singapore Politics