Singapore heads for general election amid coronavirus pandemic

Lee Hsien Loong, Prime Minister of Singapore.

Munshi Ahmed | Bloomberg | fake pictures

Singapore Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong said Tuesday that he decided to call a general election amid the coronavirus outbreak.

Following Lee’s announcement, the prime minister’s office said President Halimah Yacob dissolved parliament and that the day of the nomination will be June 30. The Election Department said that Singapore voters will go to the polls on July 10.

In a televised speech, Lee explained his decision to call an election now. He said he was “satisfied” that voting can be done safely and that political parties can campaign effectively since the situation in Singapore is “relatively stable”.

“An election now, when things are relatively stable, will clear the covers and give the new government a new five-year term,” said the prime minister.

“The alternative is to wait for the Covid-19 pandemic. But we are not sure that the pandemic will end before the term of this government ends next April. And that is why I have decided to hold the general election now,” he added. .

Speculation of an impending general election has increased in recent weeks, as the Southeast Asian country earlier this month began lifting restrictions set to curb the spread of the coronavirus. Last week, Singapore cut most of its partial blockade measures, allowing almost all economic activity to resume.

The ruling Popular Action Party has ruled the city-state of Southeast Asia since 1959, before the country’s independence in 1965.

In the previous 2015 elections, the party won 69.9% of the total vote, sweeping 83 of the 89 contested seats.

The number of congressional seats contested in the upcoming elections is expected to increase to 93, as recommended by the country’s Electoral Boundaries Review Committee.

The Economist Intelligence Unit consultancy said in a note last week that the PAP vote share in the upcoming elections could drop from the 2015 level, although “risk aversion among the population and weak opposition means it will maintain control comfortable about power. “

Full impact of the coronavirus pandemic

Singapore has been the Asian country most affected by the coronavirus outbreak. The country’s health ministry preliminarily confirmed 119 new cases of coronavirus on Tuesday, bringing its count to 42,432 since the outbreak.

Singapore’s open and trade-dependent economy has been severely affected. The economy contracted 0.7% yoy in the first quarter, and is expected to decline between 4% and 7% this year.

To soften the economic blow to the outbreak, the Lee-led government has announced four rounds of fiscal stimulus worth close to Singapore’s $ 100 billion ($ 71.9 billion), or about 20% of gross domestic product.

But Lee warned in his speech that the country “has not yet felt the full economic consequences of Covid-19, but it is coming.”

“Despite all the measures we have taken, there will be more business closings and more reductions in the coming months. Unemployment will rise,” he said, adding that external uncertainties such as mounting tensions between the United States and China are also a concern. .