Singapore

Parties race to get message out to voters

This article is more than 12 months old

Political parties end campaigning with walkabouts and cyberspace chats

As the clock wound down on the most unusual election campaign in memory, party leaders raced around the island, as well as online, to make their pitches and sway voters, ahead of Cooling Off day today.

The ruling People's Action Party (PAP) asked voters to soberly decide who they would trust to steer the nation out of the monumental Covid-19 crisis that is looming and will have to be dealt with in the years ahead.

The opposition parties repeated their pleas to deny the PAP a sweeping majority or a "blank cheque" that would allow it to implement policies at will.

They also offered to voice alternative views in Parliament.

The safe-distancing measures imposed on account of the Covid-19 outbreak ensured that the campaign ended with leaders from different parties making their final pitches not at crowded rallies but through chats in cyberspace.

Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong noted at PAP's final e-rally last night that it was an unusual end to a general election campaign, but an appropriate one given the monumental challenge still ahead of the country.

SENSIBLE THING

"It is appropriate in this moment that we should be in this frame of mind - serious, collected, a little bit detached - but we know that this is a serious problem, and let's make the most rational, sensible thing we can do to get through," he said.

PAP leaders sought a strong mandate to tackle the crisis that has deepened geopolitical tensions, disrupted supply chains and even fractured some societies.

Opposition parties, however, called on voters to deny the PAP a supermajority, by giving them one-third of the 93 seats up for grabs.

Former Workers' Party chief Low Thia Khiang took to YouTube to urge voters to deny the PAP the two-thirds majority that would let it "implement policies at their sole discretion".

"With the economic uncertainty looming over us, should we bet all our chips on the ruling party and hope that we luck out... and they will take good care of people in need?" he asked.

"Or should we groom more opposition members with alternative suggestions and opinions to enter Parliament to provide a well-rounded discussion on policies?"

While cyberspace was the dominant medium of communication, parties also used other ways to cap off the nine days of campaigning.

For instance, the Singapore Democratic Party's (SDP's) 11 candidates for this election had a mega walkabout in all five of the constituencies it is contesting, with the help of a chartered bus.

The drastically-altered campaign this time meant some parties were more confident of their chances than others.

Progress Singapore Party (PSP) chief Tan Cheng Bock said he is optimistic that his team will do well in West Coast GRC.

He said his message that the ruling party has lost its way will carry weight with voters.

But SDP chairman Paul Tambyah, who is contesting Bukit Panjang SMC, said he was not optimistic about the opposition's chances in this election.

"Between the major parties together, if we get one-third, we can prevent a super majority in Parliament," said Prof Tambyah, who said the timing of the election put the opposition at a disadvantage.

"Although, to be honest, that is wishful thinking. Because right now, it looks like a wipeout. So all we are trying to do is survive."

GENERAL ELECTION 2020