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Singapore - Parliamentary Election 2020

Singapore will hold general elections on 10 July 2020 (Friday), the election dept said. This meant Singaporeans would enjoy a long election weekend as polling day would be designated a public holiday. The general election would be held in the midst of the coronavirus pandemic and the republics worst ever economic crisis. The Economist Intelligence Unit (EIU) said in a note that it expected the PAPs vote share to fall from the 2015 election [but] risk aversion among the populace and a weak opposition mean that it will retain a comfortable grip on power. The COVID recession and the PAP governments plan to arrest job losses and restructure the economy for the post-pandemic era seemed likely to dominate campaigning.

Singapore is a parliamentary republic where the Peoples Action Party (PAP), in power since 1959, overwhelmingly dominated the political scene. The Elections Department declared Halimah Yacob president in 2017; she was the only candidate who qualified for the ballot, which was reserved that year for an ethnic Malay. Observers considered the 2015 general election free and open. The PAP won 83 of 89 parliamentary seats with 70 percent of the vote. The president subsequently reappointed PAP leader Lee Hsien Loong as prime minister.

The government prohibits organized political activities except by groups registered as political parties or political associations. These may not receive foreign donations but may receive funds from citizens and locally controlled entities. The ruling PAP was able to use nonpolitical organizations, such as residential committees and neighborhood groups, for political purposes far more extensively than could opposition parties. Due to laws regulating the formation of publicly active organizations, there were few nongovernmental organizations (NGOs) apart from nonpolitical organizations, such as religious or environmental groups.

The opposition criticized the PAP for its abuse of incumbency to restrict opposition parties. The PAP maintained its political dominance in part by circumscribing political discourse and action. For example, government-appointed and predominantly publicly funded Community Development Councils, which provide welfare and other services, strengthened the PAPs position. The PAP also had an extensive grassroots system and a carefully selected, highly disciplined membership. The constitutional requirement that members of parliament resign if expelled from their party helped promote backbencher discipline.

The PAP controlled key positions in and out of government, influenced the press, and benefited from weak opposition parties. While the PAPs methods were consistent with the law and the prerogatives of parliamentary government in the country, the overall effect was to perpetuate PAP power.

Although political parties were legally free to organize, authorities imposed strict regulations on their constitutions, fundraising, and accountability, including a ban on receiving foreign donations and a requirement to report donations. There were 32 registered political parties, 12 of which were active.

On 20 April 2020 the Ministry of Home Affairs, the Cyber Security Agency of Singapore and the Elections Department published advisories to political parties, on the Elections Department website, about the threat of foreign interference in elections and cybersecurity risks. Foreign interference in elections refers to attempts by foreign actors (countries, agencies, people) to assert influence over elections in a sovereign state. The advisory on cybersecurity risks and precautionary measures to political parties provides information on the potential cyber threats and good practices that political parties and candidates can take to manage and mitigate such risks.

The Covid19 restrictions meant no physical election rallies, which have been a major campaigning tool for Singapore's opposition parties (their rallies are traditionally much better attended than the ruling PAP's). Alternatives include TV broadcasts, online rallies. Political parties and candidates may conduct walkabouts and door-to-door campaigning. Based on the safe distancing guidelines for Phase 2, any group doing a walkabout or door-to-door campaigning should be made up of not more than five persons, there should be no mixing between groups, and each group should remain at least one metre apart from other groups. Candidates may use perambulating vehicles for campaigning, but they will not be permitted to speak or livestream or broadcast music or videos from the vehicle.

In view of the COVID-19 situation, e Elections Department (ELD) strongly encouraged political parties and candidates to plan for modes of campaigning that did not involve physical group gatherings. As at past elections, campaigning activities on television and the Internet can take place, in accordance with guidelines for such activities. Political parties and candidates can also continue to make use of posters, banners and printed campaign materials to reach out to voters.

Voters in Singapore headed to the polls 10 July 2020 in a general election amid unclear prospects for economic recovery due to the coronavirus outbreak. Voting began at about 1,100 polling stations. Officials increased the number of polling stations by about 200 from the previous election to prevent further infections. They also allocated time slots for voters and are requiring voters to disinfect their hands and wear gloves. Candidates are vying for 93 parliament seats in the first vote in five years.

The governing People's Action Party, led by Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong, has ruled the country since its independence in 1965. In the previous election, the party won 69.9 percent of the vote and more than 90 percent of parliamentary seats. Economic recovery has become the main focus of the election as the coronavirus outbreak hit the country's economy hard. This year's economic growth forecast was significantly downgraded to as low as minus 7 percent. The country has confirmed more than 45,000 coronavirus infections. The ruling party has proposed measures to revitalize the economy, including the creation of 100,000 jobs.

Opposition parties proposed financial support for jobless people and freezing the consumption tax hike. They also criticized the administration for its handling of the outbreak.

Singapore Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong's long-governing party has comfortably won general elections, which took place amid the coronavirus pandemic, but faced a setback as the opposition made minor gains. The Election Department said Lee's People's Action Party (PAP) secured 83 parliamentary seats, amounting to 89 percent of the total. The Workers Party, the only opposition with a presence in parliament, increased its seats from six to 10. Local media reported the PAP's popular vote fell to 61 percent. It marked a decline in the PAP's performance from 2015 polls where it took 93 percent of seats and nearly 70 percent of the total vote.

"In the Singapore context, this is a defeat [for PAP]. Worst seat performance and loss of popular vote in an election that they called early in a pandemic mistakenly thinking the crisis would help them," Bridget Welsh, honorary research associate at Malaysia's University of Nottingham told The Associated Press news agency.

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Page last modified: 10-07-2020 19:04:42 ZULU