SINGAPORE - The general election is not a normal one, with Singapore in the middle of the most severe crisis the world has faced for decades, said Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong on Saturday (June 27).
Setting out what is at stake as he launched the People's Action Party's campaign manifesto, PM Lee stressed that the immediate business of running Singapore is anything but routine.
"Without a herculean effort by us, we cannot be certain that what we have painstakingly built over decades will continue to stand, and not collapse in the storm," he said.
"Right now, keeping Singapore going, flying straight and level through turbulent weather is the most challenging and urgent priority for the Government."
PM Lee, who is the PAP's secretary-general, noted that in a normal election, the party's manifesto would focus on its long-term plans for Singapore.
But given the pandemic, he said the central focus of the PAP's manifesto is "how we will work together to overcome this crisis of a generation".
He highlighted three issues on the top of voters' minds: keeping Singaporeans and migrant workers safe from Covid-19 and keeping the disease from overwhelming the healthcare system; restarting and transforming the economy; and providing care and support to Singaporeans amid the uncertainty and dangers.
Said PM Lee: "Singaporeans understand that this is not business as usual, or politics as usual. You want to know how the Government will work with you to solve your pressing worries."
The party's manifesto for this election - "Our Lives, Our Jobs, Our Future" - answers those questions, he said.
Beyond Covid-19 and jobs, Singaporeans also want to know whether the country can continue its upward march after the crisis subsides, and where Singapore will be in 20 years' time, he added.
"Therefore this manifesto also sets out the PAP's longer-term plans to build a better Singapore, because our aim is not just to survive the storm but also to maintain the long-term direction for the country, and keep on building and improving Singapore," he said.
He added that the manifesto was that of a responsible party and government.
"What the PAP promises, the PAP will deliver," he said.
Because of the Covid-19 pandemic, the manifesto launch was done over Facebook Live instead of at an event attended by party activists.
"Hardly ever before has government been so crucial to protecting the lives and livelihoods of Singaporeans. This is why leadership is key, whom you choose to form the next government - and the quality of that leadership - is absolutely critical," said PM Lee.
But he also said the team needed to work hard to convince Singaporeans that it deserved their support.
In 2015, the PAP's campaign slogan was "With you, for you, for Singapore".
With the manifesto launched, it is all systems go for the PAP, which completed introductions for its 27 new candidates on Friday.
The number of new candidates fielded this time to contest a total of 93 seats is higher than the party's usual rate of one quarter renewal each GE.
The slate of new faces also comprises 11 women, more than double the five fielded in 2015.
PM Lee said the party's new candidates have diverse backgrounds and can understand the concerns of all Singaporeans.
"Our new candidates come from all walks of life, and they are representative of the complexion of our society," he said.
He also paid tribute to candidates contesting Workers' Party-held constituencies of Hougang SMC and Aljunied GRC, and called on voters to support them in the coming polls.
The prime minister thanked retiring MPs including political veterans Emeritus Senior Minister Goh Chok Tong, Transport Minister Khaw Boon Wan and seven-term backbencher Charles Chong.
The party has about 20 MPs retiring this time, he said, as he thanked them for their contributions.
"They have agreed to step down, because they understand the need for self-renewal, and have put the party and nation before self. After the GE, we will create the appropriate occasion to properly express our deep appreciation to them."
In the days ahead, the party said it would announce its line-ups for various GRCs, and which MPs would be stepping aside to make way for new blood, before Nomination Day next Tuesday.
PM Lee said the general election will be a tough one, and called on party activists to fight hard for every single vote, in every constituency - PAP or opposition, SMC or GRC.
"Let us give it our all. Convince Singaporeans to give the PAP their strong support, and to work with us to secure our lives, our jobs, and our future," he said.