SINGAPORE: There are two choices when it comes to the timing of the General Election, the country’s Prime Minister Mr Lee Hsien Loong said on Saturday (Mar 14), a day after changes to the electoral boundaries were announced.
“When to hold elections? That depends on the situation, and the outlook,” Mr Lee said in a Facebook post after holding a dialogue with grassroots leaders on COVID-19.
“Singapore faces grave and extended challenges,” he said, noting the pandemic will “likely last at least this year, and quite possibly longer”.
As of Friday, Singapore has a total of 200 recorded COVID-19 cases, with 97 patients discharged after recovering.
The country is seeing more imported cases of the coronavirus as the disease spreads globally, killing more than 5,000 people and infecting nearly 150,000.
READ: 13 new cases of COVID-19 in Singapore, 1 more discharged from hospital
The next election, which has to take place by Apr 21 next year, can only be called after the electoral registers are updated, Mr Lee added.
“This will take about a month,” he said.
Shortly after the Electoral Boundaries Review Committee (EBRC) released its report on Friday, the Elections Department said the registers of electors will be available for public inspection from Mar 14 to Mar 27.
READ: Registers of electors ready for public inspection from Mar 14
Given the current situation, Mr Lee said Singapore has two choices – to hold elections after things stabilise or to 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.”
READ: Release of EBRC report ‘not correlated’ with when elections will be called: Chan Chun Sing
READ: Smaller GRCs, more SMCs may boost GE contestability, a positive step for democracy in Singapore: Political observers
He said precautions will be taken if elections are to be held before the COVID-19 situation is over.
“If we have to hold elections before COVID-19 is over, we will take all the precautions necessary, so that parties can campaign effectively, and people can vote safely. At stake are jobs, businesses and lives,” he wrote.
“Which way to go, and the elections date, will depend on what will best see Singapore through this major crisis.”
Before Mr Lee made the announcement, the Singapore Democratic Party (SDP) chief Chee Soon Juan had said it was the “worst of possible times” to call an election.
“PAP (People’s Action Party) cannot be more irresponsible to do something like this when we should be focusing our state resources, that the minds of Singaporeans at least on overcoming, conquering this virus,” Dr Chee had said.
READ: Key changes to the electoral boundaries: What you need to know
CHANGES TO ELECTORAL BOUNDARIES
Mr Lee’s post comes a day after the EBRC report revealed changes to the electoral boundaries for the next election.
Some of these changes include having more electoral divisions and no more mammoth six-member Group Representation Constituencies (GRCs).
Both Ang Mo Kio and Pasir Ris-Punggol GRCs will trim one member to become five-member GRCs.
READ: More electoral divisions, no 6-member GRCs in coming election: EBRC report
The committee recommended the adoption of 31 electoral divisions, up from 29, with a total of 93 seats in Parliament, four more than the 89 in the House currently.
A new GRC – Sengkang – has been created and there are four new Single Member Constituencies (SMCs), while three SMCs will be dissolved.