Speaking to Bloomberg News editor-in-chief John Micklethwait at the inaugural Bloomberg New Economy Forum held here yesterday, Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong indicated that it is possible that the next General Election may be called as early as next year.
While the next election must be held by 15 Jan 2021, several political analysts have opined that Singaporeans may be called to go to the polls earlier than expected.
At the forum yesterday, Micklethwait had asked PM Lee whether it is possible an election will be called as the nation celebrates the 200th anniversary of Sir Stamford Raffles’ arrival in Singapore next year:
“Next year is the 200th anniversary of Stamford Raffles’ coming here. Why not — would that be a reason to bring the election forward? You have the possibility of an election in 2021?”
PM Lee replied: “It’s always possible. There are many reasons to bring elections forward or not, so we’ll see.”
The possibility of the next election being called after the bicentennial anniversary of Raffles’ arrival here would go in line with past election trends, especially if the Government chooses to commemorate the anniversary by giving a cash bonus to Singaporeans.
The nation was celebrating its 50th year of independence in 2015 when the last General Election was called. Citizens received a “SG50” cash bonus in the run-up to the election, which the PAP won with an overwhelming majority.
In Budget 2015, middle-income earners who paid personal income tax received a 50 per cent rebate of up to $1,000. Besides this, eligible Singaporeans aged 55 and above received a one-off Seniors’ Bonus of $150 to $600 in cash, as well.
2015 was also the same year that the nation’s founding prime minister Lee Kuan Yew passed on. Political observers speculated at the time that the Government called a General Election earlier than expected during the last cycle, to capitalise on the wave of goodwill that poured forth after the political leader’s passing.
The General Election before that, was preceded by Budget 2011, in which the Government distributed $1.5 billion worth of “growth dividends” to Singaporeans. 80 per cent of citizens received $500 to $700 each that year.
A possible cash bonus to commemorate 200 years since Raffles’ arrival – combined with the $100-$300 all Singaporeans will receive as a one-off bonus this year due to the exceptional Budget surplus of FY2017 – could signal that the next election will be sooner rather than later, given past election trends.
With the trend of one-off cash bonuses preceding General Elections in recent years, it may come as no surprise to some if the next election is called as soon as 2019.
A 2019 election would also coincide with the biennial Central Executive Committee (CEC) election of the ruling party.
Law and Home Affairs Minister K Shanmugam had earlier hinted that Singaporeans should watch the CEC elections results to get an indication of who might become Singapore’s fourth Prime Minister.