The Straits Times says

An election to secure Singapore's future

After months of anticipation, Parliament was dissolved and the Writ of Election issued on Tuesday. Singaporeans head to the polls on July 10. Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong called the general election now while the Covid-19 situation is relatively stable, to give a new government a fresh, full five-year mandate. After the election, it will be able to focus on the national agenda - which includes handling the pandemic and the economy - and the difficult decisions that need to be made to ensure Singapore can emerge stronger.

In his address to the nation, PM Lee also warned that Singapore has not yet felt the full impact of the economic fallout from Covid-19. There will be more business closures and retrenchments in the coming months. Looking further ahead, there is the difficult task of restructuring the economy. Singapore also faces the effects of external uncertainties: tensions between the United States and China, including over Hong Kong; a US presidential election in November; border clashes between China and India; and ongoing disputes in the South China Sea. The government that voters elect will have critical decisions to make that will impact lives and livelihoods, and shape Singapore far beyond the next five-year term.

Over the past two weeks, Singaporeans also heard a series of six national broadcasts. The theme of unity and emerging stronger together is clearly a key plank of the ruling People's Action Party's pitch to voters. Ministers laid out how the leadership intends to address both the economic and social impact of the pandemic - from immediate plans and programmes to save jobs, to ensuring that the country will emerge stronger.

While not explicitly stated, the message is clear: This is a government with a blueprint to secure lives, jobs and the future. It has had the support of Singaporeans to overcome past crises and hopes that voters will once again rally behind it as it steers the country through very troubled waters.

Whether the message resonates with voters, and how the opposition counters it, will be borne out in the results on election night. Given the backdrop of a health and economic crisis - and the flight to leadership seen in most countries - the ruling party's track record would lead most to conclude that it stands to do well this time round. But the uncertainty and pain felt on the ground from the pandemic could also make for angsty voters. The fact that this is the first virtually contested election also adds to the difficulty in trying to forecast the outcome. Every election is a roll of the electoral dice. As in the past, the party which is most able to show that it understands what voters care about and make plain that it is working to address their concerns, while planning for the future, will be most likely to secure their support for the long haul.

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on June 25, 2020, with the headline 'An election to secure Singapore's future'. Print Edition | Subscribe