Singapore GE2020: All 93 seats contested as Singapore heads for 'crisis election' on July 10

PM Lee says outcome of polls will impact Republic's response to crisis and its future

Deputy Prime Minister Heng Swee Keat (above) greeting a resident in Bedok yesterday after a surprise move from Tampines GRC to lead PAP's East Coast GRC team in a contest against the WP. ST PHOTOS: LIM YAOHUI, CHONG JUN LIANG
West Coast GRC is also closely watched, with a team led by Dr Tan Cheng Bock - whose posters (above) went up in Yishun yesterday - coming up against a PAP team helmed by two ministers. ST PHOTOS: LIM YAOHUI, CHONG JUN LIANG

Singapore will see all seats contested for the second general election in a row, in a contest that takes place amid a global pandemic and a time of crisis.

Nomination Day saw a total of 192 candidates file papers to contest all 93 seats in 17 group representation constituencies and 14 single-member constituencies.

The ruling People's Action Party (PAP) is the only party fighting for every seat, while the leading opposition Workers' Party (WP) is fielding 21 candidates this time around, fewer than the 28 in 2015.

The Progress Singapore Party (PSP) has the largest contingent among the opposition, with 24 candidates in its maiden outing.

Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong yesterday described the July 10 polls as a "crisis election" - one that can change the course of history.

"As our manifesto puts it, what's at stake is our lives, our jobs, our future. Everything depends on which government you choose and the mandate that you give it," he said.

While there can be a "flight to safety" by the electorate, he acknowledged that this "is not the happiest of times", with people hard hit by the economic fallout from the Covid-19 pandemic.

Noting that every constituency is being contested this time, he said: "So this is not a by-election, it's a general election for the most important issues concerning the country at a moment of crisis, and I think everybody needs to understand that."

While the PAP has called on voters to give it a strong mandate, WP chief Pritam Singh said his party will face an uphill battle, especially in the light of restrictions on campaigning due to Covid-19.

In a clear drawing of battle lines, Mr Singh again warned of the possibility of a clean sweep by the ruling party, while PSP leaders called on voters to bring an end to the PAP's "super majority" in Parliament.

In response to suggestions that the election might see the PAP wiping out the opposition, PM Lee pointed out that the Non-Constituency MP (NCMP) scheme guarantees there will be a "significant opposition presence" in Parliament.

The scheme - amended in 2016 - provides for at least 12 opposition MPs with full voting rights in the House, up from nine, even in the event that the PAP wins all seats. There were six elected opposition MPs and three NCMPs in the 13th session of Parliament.

The ruling party kept some cards close to its chest till yesterday, springing last-minute surprises by deploying key fourth-generation ministers in constituencies that are expected to be hotly contested.

Deputy Prime Minister Heng Swee Keat moved from his Tampines stronghold to anchor the PAP team in East Coast GRC. His team will go up against the WP, which won 45.2 per cent of the vote in the 2011 General Election and 39.3 per cent in 2015.

Minister for Social and Family Development Desmond Lee left Jurong GRC to join the PAP team in West Coast GRC, helmed by Minister for Communications and Information S. Iswaran. They will go head to head against the PSP's "A team" led by former PAP stalwart Tan Cheng Bock, whose former Ayer Rajah seat is now part of West Coast GRC.

On deploying two ministers in West Coast, PM Lee said the party tries to spread them out, "but sometimes we have two in one place".

Analysts also expect to see keen battles between the PAP and WP teams in Aljunied GRC and the new Sengkang GRC.

Among the SMC contests, the Singapore Democratic Party (SDP) sprang a surprise of its own by fielding party chairman Paul Tambyah in Bukit Panjang against three-term PAP MP Liang Eng Hwa.

Pasir Ris-Punggol GRC will see a three-cornered fight between the PAP, Peoples Voice and Singapore Democratic Alliance - the first multi-cornered fight in a GRC since the 1992 by-election in Marine Parade GRC. There will be a three-way battle in Pioneer SMC as well.

There are 2.65 million voters registered to vote in the election.

Parties began campaigning in earnest yesterday, doing walkabouts and holding online sessions. The SDP held its first e-rally last night on Facebook.

With no physical rallies allowed in this election, parties will hold webinars and e-rallies during the campaign to try to win the hearts and minds of voters.

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A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on July 01, 2020, with the headline All 93 seats contested as Singapore heads for 'crisis election' on July 10. Subscribe