Singapore GE: Parliament dissolved, Polling Day set for July 10

PM Lee sets out why he is calling general election now amid Covid-19 pandemic

In a photo taken on Sept 11, 2015, during the general election, people cast their votes at Jing Shan Primary School. ST PHOTO: SEAH KWANG PENG

Singaporeans will go to the polls on July 10, in a general election that will take place in a time of crisis as the country grapples with the coronavirus pandemic.

The widely anticipated announcement of the election date came yesterday, when President Halimah Yacob dissolved Singapore's 13th Parliament and issued the Writ of Election.

Nomination Day will be next Tuesday, with the minimum nine days of campaigning before Cooling-Off Day on July 9.

Polling Day will be on July 10 - a Friday and a public holiday.

In a televised address to the nation yesterday, Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong said he has decided to call the general election now, while the Covid-19 situation is relatively stable, to "clear the decks" and give the new government a fresh, full five-year mandate.

After the election, the new government can focus on the national agenda - which includes handling the coronavirus pandemic, the economy and jobs - and the difficult decisions it will have to make and to carry, he said.

The alternative is to wait out the pandemic, he said, noting however that there is no assurance the outbreak will be over before the Government's term ends next April, with the virus expected to linger for at least a year - most probably longer - until a vaccine is available.

The election, Singapore's 13th since independence, is likely to see the People's Action Party (PAP) challenged for all seats - as the ruling party was in 2015.

A total of 93 elected seats are at stake - in 17 group representation constituencies and 14 single-member constituencies.

GE2020 will be waged on a drastically different battleground due to the pandemic.

Safe distancing rules that restrict the size of public gatherings to five people mean traditional campaign staples like mass rallies cannot be held. Political parties will also have to scale back on the scope of their walkabouts in constituencies.

They have geared up to turn to cyberspace and social media instead, to get their messages across to the electorate. Each candidate will also get airtime on national television, as part of the new, one-off constituency political broadcasts.

Following the announcement yesterday, political parties sprang into action and ramped up their planning and preparations.

Due to safe distancing restrictions, they ironed out campaign strategies via WhatsApp messages and Zoom calls, instead of traditional meetings in larger groups.

The PAP will launch official introductions of its new candidates and release its party manifesto over the course of this week.

Opposition parties said they were ready for the election, as the possibility of one has been on the cards for some time.

Observers reckon issues that will feature prominently at the hustings include the state of the economy and jobs, the Government's handling of the coronavirus situation, political succession and the setting of the direction of Singapore's future after Covid-19.

The PAP's leaders have, in a series of six national broadcasts over the past two weeks, set out the key issues at stake, including protecting jobs, overcoming the current crisis and securing Singapore's future.

Meanwhile, opposition parties are expected to question the Government's handling of the Covid-19 outbreak, and call for greater accountability as well as more checks and balances to keep the ruling party on its toes.

The pandemic has brought economies to a near standstill, as countries lock down to curb the spread of the virus. Singapore's economy is projected to shrink by up to 7 per cent this year, which would make it the worst recession since independence in 1965.

In response, the Government has rolled out nearly $93 billion to fund four Covid-19 support packages, requiring a draw of up to $52 billion from past reserves.

This coming election will see Mr Lee lead the PAP into battle for the fourth, and what looks set to be the final, time as prime minister.

He had earlier declared his intention to hand over the reins to his successor by the time he turns 70, which will be in 2022.

Deputy Prime Minister Heng Swee Keat, who leads the PAP's fourth-generation team, is poised to take over.

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The 2006 General Election, the first led by Mr Lee, saw the PAP get 66.6 per cent of the popular vote.

The ruling party saw its vote share fall to 60.1 per cent in the 2011 election, but rebounded to secure 69.9 per cent of the vote in 2015.

There will be 2,653,942 voters heading to the polls next month.

There will also be a minimum of 12 opposition MPs in Parliament - including Non-Constituency MPs - up from nine currently. This stems from changes to the Constitution that were passed to guarantee that number, should there be fewer than 12 elected opposition MPs.

The Returning Officer for this election is Mr Tan Meng Dui, replacing Mr Ng Wai Choong, who was the Returning Officer for the 2015 General Election.

  • GE2020: Stay informed with ST's full coverage

  • To help readers stay updated with the latest developments, The Straits Times will be making GE2020 content freely available to all.

    "This is an especially important election for Singapore, given the many challenges posed by the pandemic. Voters have an important decision to make," said ST editor Warren Fernandez.

    "We want to help make sure they are well informed to make their choice. So, as a public service, we are making our election-related content freely available." Visit the GE microsite for full coverage.

In a Facebook post yesterday, Madam Halimah said: "It is important that every care and effort be taken to ensure that our voters' safety is not compromised.

"I would also like to urge Singaporeans to have open, civil and respectful conversations with one another during this period.

"For us to continue prospering as a nation, we must stay united and build upon our strengths."

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A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on June 24, 2020, with the headline Singapore GE: Parliament dissolved, Polling Day set for July 10. Subscribe