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5 reasons why it is worth looking at the upcoming Singapore general election

Singapore voters line up in a polling station to cast their vote in the general election of September 11, 2015.

Roslan Rahman | AFP | Getty Images

Singapore will hold its general elections on July 10 – just over a month after the country began easing restrictions aimed at containing one of Southeast Asia̵

7;s largest coronavirus outbreaks.

Singapore’s ruling party, the People’s Action Party, has never lost elections before and has ruled the state of the city since 1959, before the country’s independence in 1965.

The next elections are preparing to be different from the previous ones. Here are five reasons why it is worth looking at the upcoming Singapore elections.

Coronavirus cases are still rising

Southeast Asia is not the first country to hold a national vote in the midst of the pandemic. In April, South Korea held parliamentary elections which led to a decisive victory for President Moon Jae-in’s party.

While the South Korean government has been widely praised for managing the virus at the time of the election, Singapore’s response – initially seen as a global success – has lost some of its glory due to an outbreak inside dormitories that house migrant workers.

Those workers – usually men from other Asian countries who work in low-income, labor-intensive jobs – account for over 90% of the nearly 44,000 confirmed infections in Singapore, according to data from the ministry of health.

The total number of new cases reported daily is still rising to hundreds. However, a decline in infections outside dormitories has led the Singapore government to loosen much of its partial blockade measures last month, paving the way for elections.

However, some observers have warned that infections in the wider community could rise ahead of the July 10 vote.

“Any spike in community cases … on the day of the polls could lead to criticism of the government decision and will therefore backfire (vote) of approval,” consultancy firm The Economist Intelligence Unit said in a statement. last week.

Looming economic crisis

The coronavirus pandemic hit Singapore at a time when its open, trade-dependent economy was already experiencing the effects of the US-China trade war.

Singapore expects the worst economic downturn since independence in 1965. According to official estimates, the economy is expected to decline between 4% and 7% this year.

In the past, times of crisis have helped the ruling party achieve greater electoral victories, as voters have 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 such a “flight to security” often occurred at the beginning of a crisis, not in the midst of it, said Eugene Tan, an associate professor of law at Singapore Management University.

“I think Singapore is now in the eye of the hurricane, and how the government has handled the crisis so far, I think it will be subject to very solid control over the campaign period,” Tan said last week to “Squawk Box Asia “of CNBC.

“I don’t think it’s clear that this is the general election that will favor the party in power, the odds are that it would, but we shouldn’t rule out the possibility that voters may have a different view,” said Tan, a regular commentator on the Singapore politics.

Change of protections

Singapore Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong previously said he was ready to step down when he turns 70. Lee, who has held the top spot since 2004, is now 68 years old, which means that the next election may be his last as prime minister.

Lee is only Singapore’s third prime minister since independence. He is the son of the highly respected founding prime minister of the city state, the late Lee Kuan Yew.

Current Deputy Prime Minister and Finance Minister Heng Swee Keat intends to succeed Lee. Heng and a group of cabinet ministers – nicknamed leaders of the fourth generation, or 4G, have been at the forefront of the country’s response to the outbreak of the coronavirus.

These ministers are expected to play a greater role in leading the Popular Action Party in power, or PAP, in the upcoming elections.

Opposition policy

For the second time since Singapore’s independence, all 93 parliamentary seats that are elected in the elections will be contested. The PAP in power is the only one that has lined up candidates for each post.

PAP won every election since independence – often even before election day, because opposition parties sometimes lined up candidates for only a handful of seats. The last elections of 2015 were the first time that every parliamentary seat has been contested.

Last week, the prime minister’s younger brother, Lee Hsien Yang, joined an opposition party. Although young Lee is not contesting the elections, he should help rally support for the opposition.

Lee Hsien Yang, son of Singapore’s founding prime minister Lee Kuan Yew and younger brother of current Premier Lee Hsien Loong, joins the opposition Progress Singapore Party.

Suhaimi Abdullah | Getty Images

Their father, Lee Kuan Yew, co-founded the party in power and was the longest serving prime minister of Singapore from 1959 to 1990. He was widely recognized for the development of Singapore – a former British colony – by a third world country in the advanced city claim it is today.

Safe campaign and vote

An election in the midst of the coronavirus epidemic means that political parties will have to eliminate the traditional way of campaigning. The main among these is mass gatherings – one of the most common methods for candidates to reach voters.

Community door-to-door and walkabout campaigns are still permitted, subject to rules such as limiting each group to five people, wearing a mask and maintaining a safe distance, according to guidelines issued by the Electoral Department.

To remedy the lack of physical rallies, political parties will have more time on the air to campaign on free-to-air TV channels, according to the guidelines. Candidates may also rally online in live streaming, he added.

On the day of the vote, the department said that temperature screening and other hygiene measures will be conducted in all polling stations. To avoid crowding, there will also be multiple polling stations and voters will be given a recommended two-hour time slot to cast their vote, he added.

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