An election to secure Singapore's future

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 on Tuesday, 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 on Tuesday, 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 out, 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.

Noting that this GE will be very different from previous ones due to Covid-19, President Halimah Yacob wrote in a Facebook post on Tuesday: "It is important that every care and effort be taken to ensure that our voters' safety is not compromised."

She also urged Singaporeans "to have open, civil and respectful conversations with one another during this period".

The Government's handling of the pandemic and the resulting economic impact are expected to be major issues in this election.

The Government introduced four support packages worth nearly $93 billion to deal with the Covid-19 crisis, having to draw up to $52 billion from past reserves.

The Straits Times

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