SINGAPORE - Political parties have hit the ground running in their 17-day sprint to the polls on July 10, when the long-anticipated general election will be held.
But barred from meeting in large groups because of the coronavirus pandemic, parties have broken with tradition and turned to the online space instead, ironing out the finer details of campaign strategies through a flurry of WhatsApp messages and Zoom calls.
These include discussions on logistics, budgeting, the coordination of volunteer efforts, and each party's approach to rally videos, which will play a central role in this year's polls.
In the ruling People's Action Party (PAP), the party machinery swung into high gear several weeks ago, activists told The Straits Times.
Studios are now being set up in some branches for candidates to deliver their rally speeches, and some candidates have already had their pictures taken for printing on election posters and banners.
In a statement on Tuesday (June 23), the party said it will launch its manifesto and introduce new candidates "in due course". This is expected to take place over the course of the week.
Meanwhile, the Workers' Party (WP) is playing its cards close to its chest. The party put up a video clip Tuesday night featuring 12 of its members, including current parliamentarians, former candidates and new faces.
Notably, the video did not include former party chief Low Thia Khiang, who is recovering from a fall on April 30. It is unclear whether Mr Low will stand for election again, with speculation that he had been contemplating retirement even before the accident.
All parties are also building up their video capabilities, since rallies will now take place online and candidates will get extra television airtime.
National Solidarity Party secretary-general Spencer Ng said his party has bought and rented broadcast equipment, while Mr Desmond Lim, president of the Singapore Democratic Alliance, said his party's online rallies have been pre-recorded.
Others, including the Singapore Democratic Party and Progress Singapore Party (PSP), have put out calls for boots on the ground to help as polling agents and campaign workers.
"Both play important roles in our Party's election campaign," said PSP chief Tan Cheng Bock on the party's messaging channels.
Although Covid-19 case numbers have dropped in the past few weeks, several opposition parties have continued to raise objections over the appropriateness of holding the election at this time.
"Although there are countries that have held elections during this period, results are mixed," said People's Power Party chief Goh Meng Seng. "Some countries have had a spike in cases."
He added that his party will have to rush to print fliers and posters, although he plans to rely mainly on social media to reach voters.
"I would not want to risk public health by campaigning, although I may go down and sit in coffee shops or hawker centres," Mr Goh said.
Democratic Progressive Party secretary-general Mohamad Hamim Aliyas said the polls are being conducted too soon, while People's Voice leader Lim Tean called it a "cruel time" to hold an election as people are "reeling financially from the consequences of the crisis".