Singapore

Elections may be held as early as May if virus situation stabilises

This article is more than 12 months old

This could depend on whether coronavirus situation stabilises, say PAP activists

Activists from the ruling People's Action Party (PAP) are expecting the next general election to be held as soon as early May, after changes to the electoral boundaries were announced last Friday.

One factor that could impact the timing of polls is when the number of coronavirus cases stabilises, said senior party activists who spoke to The Straits Times on condition of anonymity.

Meanwhile, opposition politicians said they are taking precautions against Covid-19 while continuing their outreach. Various opposition parties have urged the Government to hold off from calling an election until the outbreak is under control.

An activist from a PAP branch in the west does not see the election happening next month. "We have to wait for the 30-day window that (National Development) Minister Lawrence Wong mentioned - it has to be safe enough for people to vote."

He was referring to the 30-day travel advisory announced by Mr Wong on Sunday, cautioning Singaporeans against non-essential travel.

"(GE is) likely to be in May, as long as things stabilise. The PM is then likely to press the button (for us to go). We can't say for sure this will happen, but this is what we are anticipating," said the activist.

The next GE has to be held by April 21 next year.

Several leaders - including Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong - have said they expect the outbreak to be prolonged and to worsen before it improves.

SPREADING

The virus is spreading rapidly in more than 100 countries, causing the risk of imported cases entering Singapore to rise dramatically, and potentially prolonging its impact on the Republic's economy.

Deputy Prime Minister Heng Swee Keat unveiled a $4 billion package during the Budget to tide businesses and Singaporeans through, and said last week a second tranche of support measures is in the pipeline.

"When people see results, with cases declining and things looking stable, it'll have a feel-good effect - that the Government handled this well and can be trusted," said the activist.

There is another reason an April date is unlikely. On Saturday, PM Lee said in a Facebook post that the GE can be called only after the electoral registers are updated, and that this will take about a month. Parliament can then be dissolved and the writ of election issued.

This puts early May as a possible window, which would mean the GE taking place within the month of Ramadan.

Some, like People's Power Party secretary-general Goh Meng Seng, feel that calling elections during the outbreak, along with what he called the "gerrymandering" of electoral boundaries, would backfire against the PAP. Having an election during the outbreak would make it necessary for all parties to take precautions.

Some PAP activists said they were expecting livestreamed townhall sessions to take the place of mass rallies, but were also worried that these might not reach older voters.

Singapore People's Party chairman Jose Raymond, who will be contesting in Potong Pasir, said his team would take "necessary precautions to keep our distance, stay safe, and try to greet people without having to also place them under any form of potential risk".

Singapore Politics