SINGAPORE: Progress Singapore Party (PSP) chief Tan Cheng Bock has joined other opposition leaders in pressing for the next General Election not to be held until after the COVID-19 outbreak.
“We have a COVID-19 pandemic crisis now. Is it wise to hold a General Election in the midst of this COVID-19 pandemic?” he said in a video statement on the party’s Facebook page on Saturday (Mar 14).
“We are exposing more than 2.6 million voters to the virus on Polling Day because voting is compulsory and everyone must go to the polling stations to cast their votes.”
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He pointed out that rallies and election activities during election campaigning can lead to mass exposure to the virus.
“Holding a General Election at this time should not be considered,” he said.
A total of 212 cases of COVID-19 have been confirmed in Singapore, with 105 patients recovered and discharged from hospital.
Authorities in Singapore had on Friday announced additional social-distancing measures, such as deferring or cancelling events attended by more than 250 people.
READ: COVID-19: Singapore widens travel restrictions to Italy, France, Spain, Germany
All mosques have been temporarily shut for cleaning after a number of Singaporeans were infected with COVID-19 at a religious gathering in Malaysia. Many churches and other places of worship have also suspended services and mass activities.
The Electoral Boundaries Review Committee released its report on Friday announcing changes to the electoral divisions in Singapore.
This is seen by most as a sign that elections are imminent, with past polls being held no more than three months after the report’s release.
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Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong has not ruled out holding the General Election amid the COVID-19 crisis, saying in a Facebook post on Saturday that Singapore can hold elections after things stabilise or call elections early.
“We have two choices. Either hope and pray that things will stabilise before the end of the term so that we can hold elections under more normal circumstances – but we have no certainty of that,” he wrote.
“Or else call elections early, knowing that we are going into a hurricane, to elect a new government with a fresh mandate and a full term ahead of it, which can work with Singaporeans on the critical tasks at hand.”
Precautions will be taken if elections are to be held before the COVID-19 situation is over, he added.
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Other opposition parties, including the Singapore Democratic Party and the Singapore People’s Party, have also voiced objections to elections being called in such circumstances.
Dr Tan raised three alternatives: To hold the election when COVID-19 is “no longer a crisis”, to hold it at the end of the current government’s term in April 2021, or to delay it even after that.
“If the pandemic is still with us by then, the President can exercise her soft power and form a caretaker government consisting of some of the current MPs,” he said. “Subsequently, call for fresh elections when COVID-19 is no longer a crisis.”
He added: “(The PSP) strongly urge the Government not to hold a General Election while the COVID-19 pandemic is still with us.”
READ: Smaller GRCs, more SMCs may boost GE contestability, a positive step for democracy in Singapore: Political observers
On Saturday night, Reform Party leader Kenneth Jeyaretnam added his objections to calling the election during the coronavirus outbreak, while declaring where the party will stand if the election is called.
“This is a fake election that is totally unnecessary and called before it’s due. Clear proof that the PM puts himself first, then the interests of his family, his party before lastly the interests of the country,” he wrote.
“But whatever the date Reform Party will be contesting West Coast as it has in 2011 and 2015. We will also be contesting Ang Mo Kio, Radin Mas and the new SMC of Yio Chu Kang which has been hived off from AMK (Ang Mo Kio).”