Delay polls until Covid-19 crisis is over, say 2 more opposition leaders

Above: In a three-minute video put up on Facebook yesterday, Dr Tan Cheng Bock of the Progress Singapore Party said an election during an outbreak risks exposure. Left: Singapore Democratic Party chief Chee Soon Juan having his temperature checked at
Singapore Democratic Party chief Chee Soon Juan having his temperature checked at the Bloodbank@ Dhoby Ghaut yesterday. Dr Chee was at the blood bank with party members to donate blood. He said it would be "socially irresponsible" to proceed with the elections. PHOTOS: PROGRESS SINGAPORE PARTY/FACEBOOK, KEVIN LIM
Above: In a three-minute video put up on Facebook yesterday, Dr Tan Cheng Bock of the Progress Singapore Party said an election during an outbreak risks exposure. Left: Singapore Democratic Party chief Chee Soon Juan having his temperature checked at
In a three-minute video put up on Facebook yesterday, Dr Tan Cheng Bock of the Progress Singapore Party said an election during an outbreak risks exposure. PHOTOS: PROGRESS SINGAPORE PARTY/FACEBOOK, KEVIN LIM

Opposition leaders Tan Cheng Bock and Chee Soon Juan urged the Government not to hold the general election (GE) until the Covid-19 crisis is over.

Their remarks echo those of seven other opposition leaders who had a day earlier reacted to the release of the electoral boundaries report by calling for elections to be delayed.

Dr Chee, secretary-general of the Singapore Democratic Party (SDP), said it would be "socially irresponsible" to proceed with the GE given that the outbreak has been declared a pandemic by the World Health Organisation, reiterating points made in a statement by the party yesterday.

Speaking to reporters outside the Bloodbank @ Dhoby Ghaut yesterday morning, Dr Chee, who was flanked by senior party members, said: "A couple of weeks ago, we were down to one, two, three, zero cases (of new infections) I saw on one day. And all of a sudden, because of the Jurong cluster, we had things bouncing right back up again."

On March 9, it was reported that the Safra Jurong cluster, which stemmed from a dinner function, was then the largest with 36 cases.

"Now is not the time to take your eye off the ball," said Dr Chee, who was at the blood bank with party members to donate blood.

Unlike some scheduled international sporting events like football and motor racing, which have been postponed or cancelled, Dr Chee said there was still time to hold Singapore's general election. The general election must be held by April next year.

Dr Chee said there will be major concerns if it were to proceed.

Voters would be in close proximity to others at polling stations and rallies. Officials involved in vote counting would have to manually deal with the ballot papers, he said.

He reiterated that state resources should be focused on conquering and arresting the outbreak to allow Singaporeans to get back to normal life.

"How is all this going to play out?" said Dr Chee. "So we don't accept that this (general election) has to go on. And we want to maintain this line and tell the Government that this is a very serious situation. If this continues to worsen, the PAP (People's Action Party) will be held responsible for this continued outbreak."

Separately, in a three-minute video put up on Facebook yesterday, Dr Tan of the Progress Singapore Party similarly said an election during an outbreak risks exposure.

"During the campaign period, there will be rallies and many large group election activities being held. Is this a risk we want to take? There is this potential mass exposure to the virus," Dr Tan said.

"So, holding a general election at this time should not be considered. We should put politics aside. Take care of our people's health and welfare first," he added, pointing out that the United States and Britain have postponed elections so far.

He said he saw three options for the GE: call the elections after the crisis is over, call the elections at the end of the term in April 2021, or form a caretaker government.

"If the pandemic is still with us by then (April 2021), the President can exercise her soft power and form a caretaker government consisting of some of the current MPs. Subsequently, call for fresh elections when Covid-19 is no longer a crisis," he said.

Join ST's Telegram channel and get the latest breaking news delivered to you.

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Sunday Times on March 15, 2020, with the headline Delay polls until Covid-19 crisis is over, say 2 more opposition leaders. Subscribe