As Singapore crossed the halfway mark of an acrimonious election campaign yesterday, party leaders on both sides of the political divide said it was time to shift the focus of the campaign to issues that were critical to the nation's future.
This meant dealing with the Covid-19 pandemic and its impact on workers and the economy, according to the ruling People's Action Party (PAP). Others, such as the Workers' Party (WP), pointed to the need for a constructive opposition that would help the next government tackle the challenges arising from the crisis.
Trade and Industry Minister Chan Chun Sing shared the PAP's assessment of the most pressing challenge facing the nation.
"I think the most important thing still goes back to this central issue - how we are going to get through this (Covid-19) crisis," he said after a walkabout at ABC Brickworks Market and Food Centre.
Various PAP leaders then challenged opposition parties to share their concrete plans to deal with the fallout from the pandemic.
Mr Chan said such points had been glaringly missing from the manifestos of the opposition parties and their discussions over the past few days.
"This election is not about the survival of any particular opposition party, or how many seats the PAP is going to get. This election is really about how we get through this," he said.
Seeking support for the PAP team in Sengkang GRC against its rivals from the WP, Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong said of the opposition parties: "They all say they want to help workers, I mean they have to say that. But they have no plan to deal with the crisis."
The point was echoed by Home Affairs and Law Minister K. Shanmugam, who told reporters after a walkabout in Yishun Link that parties needed to spell out detailed responses to Covid-19. "How are you going to get out of (the crisis)? Even if you are that check (on the Government), what are your alternative policies? I think that people need to ask," he said.
Progress Singapore Party chief Tan Cheng Bock, who dubbed the July 10 polls the "Covid-19 election", agreed that the pandemic was a "very important aspect of the election", but he went on the offensive.
The Government, he said, had not managed the situation well, leading to high infection numbers in worker dormitories.
"If you don't control Covid-19 infections, borders will be closed to us, (then) where are we going to get people to come here to invest?
"Where are we going to get people to come here as tourists? These are very fundamental, basic things," he said, speaking to reporters at Jurong Point.
"As far as I'm concerned, this is the Covid-19 election. There is all this talk about jobs, but for me, I'm talking about lives and livelihoods," he said.
Meanwhile, WP chief Pritam Singh said that the PAP, which he expected would form the next government, would have "a very difficult job".
The WP would seek to be a constructive opposition party and bring a diversity of views to Parliament, he said.
"Our goal is not to go there and needle the PAP. We want good outcomes for Singapore," he said on the sidelines of a walkabout at Marine Terrace market.
Singapore Democratic Party (SDP) chairman Paul Tambyah yesterday also said the election campaign should move on from the dispute over the 10 million population target his party had accused the PAP of "toying with".
That had prompted a robust response from the PAP, which said the SDP's line was a falsehood aimed at misleading and frightening voters.
Yesterday, several PAP leaders sought to return the debate to the issue they had highlighted from the start - Singaporeans' lives, jobs and future, post Covid-19.