GE2020: Covid-19 led to late announcement of PAP new faces, says PM Lee Hsien Loong

Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong (centre) and his Ang Mo Kio GRC team, comprising (from left) Mr Darryl David, Ms Ng Ling Ling, Ms Nadia Ahmad Samdin and Mr Gan Thiam Poh, at the Deyi Secondary School nomination centre. ST PHOTO: DESMOND FOO

SINGAPORE - The ruling People's Action Party finalised its line-up of new candidates "very late" for this general election. The Covid-19 outbreak also caused the party to delay introducing its 27 new faces to people until last week, Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong said on Tuesday (June 30).

It did so in quick succession over three days last week, after the Writ of Election was issued.

"In the last few months, we have been busy with Covid-19 and I think if we had gone ahead and announced candidates formally in the middle of Covid-19, while we are doing a circuit breaker and other very major policy measures to keep Singaporeans safe, people will misunderstand, accuse us of politicking away, and not keeping our eyes on the ball," he said.

The PAP would have liked to deploy and make known its first-time candidates earlier, he added.

Still, it had placed potential candidates on the ground in various constituencies to gain experience. Their presence had not gone unnoticed, and some had made the news.

"So I don't think that very many of our candidates were a surprise," Mr Lee said at a virtual press conference held on Tuesday afternoon, after nominations for the polls closed .

Speaking at the same event, Deputy Prime Minister Heng Swee Keat said the Government's full attention had, in the past few months, been focused on managing the healthcare and economic threat posed by Covid-19.

"I will say that the situation on Covid-19 and the situation on the economy are likely to get worse globally," Mr Heng, the PAP's first assistant secretary-general, warned.

"(Even though) we have been able to manage this so far, we should not be complacent. We must continue to keep our energies on it."

Mr Lee, who is the PAP's secretary-general, also noted that owing to the safe distancing measures, the Internet and social media have become "a much bigger factor" this election.

One significant "downside" is that people can mobilise "overnight Internet storms", he said.

"It happens faster than people are able to digest and make sense of information and facts, and in an election that's a dangerous thing," he said.

Mr Ivan Lim, 42, who was introduced as a PAP new face, withdrew from the election over the weekend after allegations emerged online about his past conduct.

Covid-19 also means that election rallies are not allowed this time, but Mr Lee said he hoped the additional television broadcasts for parties and candidates would give voters a good feel of them.

A new feature of this election is the constituency political broadcasts in which each candidate gets three minutes to speak. These will run from July 3 to 7, from 7pm onwards each day.

PM Lee noted: "With COVID-19, we're unable to have quite the same physical election rallies and so we will have to do it on television.

"We've provided extensive amounts of television time in this campaign - it's about two hours a night for five nights."

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