Singapore began its march towards the upcoming general election with political parties unveiling their first new candidates yesterday, amid pointers that the polls held during the Covid-19 outbreak will be different from any before them.
The Elections Department (ELD) underscored this by issuing further safe distancing guidelines yesterday for those taking part in the July 10 polls.
Candidates will be required to wear masks at all times, except when they are eating or drinking.
Candidates will not be allowed to remove their masks for photographs or while talking to others and they must keep a distance of at least 1m from members of the public, said the ELD.
The outbreak has placed restrictions on physical campaigning and put a premium on the use of cyberspace, which was evident as parties introduced their new candidates yesterday.
The ruling People's Action Party (PAP) introduced the first eight of its 26 new candidates at two virtual press conferences yesterday while the opposition Workers' Party (WP) released a six-minute video on Facebook showcasing 12 likely candidates.
Deputy Prime Minister Heng Swee Keat, who is also the PAP's first assistant secretary-general, told reporters from the party headquarters that the coming general election will be critical as Singaporeans would be picking the team to lead the nation out of the Covid-19 crisis.
"We are selecting candidates for the next term of Parliament and, in turn, also selecting the party to form the next government. I trust that Singaporeans will take this decision very seriously," he said during the virtual briefing which has become the norm of late.
The PAP is bringing in "more new faces from different segments of our society" who can represent and bring different interests for discussion, he added, describing the coming slate of candidates as "very interesting and diverse".
The prospective candidates unveiled yesterday include the party's youngest new face, lawyer Nadia Ahmad Samdin, 30, as well as former brigadier-general Desmond Tan Kok Ming, 50, who is touted to be a potential office-holder.
The rest of its candidates will be introduced in similar virtual sessions today and tomorrow.
The WP's video included familiar faces such as its outgoing MPs Sylvia Lim and WP chief Pritam Singh. Former WP chief Low Thia Khiang, who was recently discharged from Khoo Teck Puat Hospital where he was in intensive care after suffering a bad fall in April, also appeared in the video though he did not speak.
But the party also revealed fresh faces that could contest under its banner, including economics professor Jamus Lim, 44; social activist Raeesah Khan, 27, who is the daughter of former presidential aspirant Farid Khan; and advertising executive Nicole Seah, 33, who was a National Solidarity Party candidate in the 2011 election.
Progress Singapore Party (PSP) founder Tan Cheng Bock yesterday announced that Mr Lee Hsien Yang, the estranged brother of Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong, has joined the party. He presented Mr Lee his party membership card over a breakfast meeting at Tiong Bahru Market in Tanjong Pagar GRC, where the PSP intends to field a team.
Neither of them would say if Mr Lee will stand in the coming election, with Dr Tan saying: "I'm not confirming... Don't worry. In politics, we know when to make our move. Timing is important."
The ELD also gave details on the televised political broadcasts for the election. Each candidate has been given three minutes to speak in constituency-based broadcasts which will run from July 3 to 7, from 7pm.
Two party political broadcasts will also be aired during this general election, on July 2 and on July 9, which is Cooling-off Day.