Workers' Party urges judiciousness and caution in calling elections

Workers' Party chief Pritam Singh (centre) and member Kenneth Foo (right) at the Eunos division of the WP-held Aljunied GRC earlier this month.
Workers' Party chief Pritam Singh (centre) and member Kenneth Foo (right) at the Eunos division of the WP-held Aljunied GRC earlier this month.PHOTO: THE WORKERS' PARTY/FACEBOOK

The Workers' Party (WP) has urged the Government to "take caution and exercise judiciousness" in calling a general election, as it noted that it does not want to partake in speculation over when the election will be called.

In a statement yesterday, the opposition party said it understands there is a lot of speculation and excitement over when the GE will be called, due to the release of the Electoral Boundaries Review Committee's report last Friday.

"In line with past experience, the general election is usually called very soon after the report's release," said the WP.

However, the party "recognises the situation facing Singapore at present is different" and that there are worries about the spread of Covid-19 and its impact on the economy, it said, as it added that it does not want to partake in speculation.

Covid-19 is the disease caused by the coronavirus.

"We urge the Government to take caution and exercise judiciousness in calling a GE. Whatever decision that is made must be one that is in the best interests of Singapore, our democracy and the public health of Singaporeans," WP said.

Its statement comes after Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong said last Saturday that the date of the next GE will depend on what will best see Singapore through the major crisis posed by the coronavirus pandemic. PM Lee noted in a Facebook post that the Covid-19 outbreak will likely persist through this year, and quite possibly longer, adding that the country has two options ahead.

The first is to hope and pray that things will stabilise before the end of the Government's term so that elections can be held under more normal circumstances. "But we have no certainty of that," he said.

The other is to "call elections early, knowing that we are going into a hurricane, to elect a new government with a fresh mandate and a full term ahead of it, which can work with Singaporeans on the critical tasks at hand".

 
 
 
 

If elections have to be held before Covid-19 is over, all necessary precautions will be taken so that parties can campaign effectively and people can vote safely, he added. "At stake are jobs, businesses and lives."

The timing of the elections depends on the situation and the outlook, PM Lee said. He noted the GE can be called only after the electoral registers are updated, which will take about a month. The next GE must be held by April 21 next year.

The release of the report and PM Lee's remarks prompted several opposition parties to call on the Government to delay the elections until the pandemic is contained.

In a video posted on Facebook yesterday, Peoples Voice party chief Lim Tean said: "People need security. They need protection. Many of them are losing their jobs... But to add to people's pressures, (the Government) now wants to call general elections. The PAP (People's Action Party) are like vultures circling around Singaporeans hoping for carrion. They do not appeal to our better selves. They capitalise on our fears, all for self-preservation and self-interest."

He cited elections around the world that have been deferred due to the coronavirus outbreak, such as presidential primaries in Georgia and Louisiana in the United States, and local elections in England, which have been delayed till May next year.

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on March 16, 2020, with the headline 'WP urges judiciousness and caution in calling elections'. Print Edition | Subscribe