Ex-People’s Action Party (PAP) parliamentarian Inderjit Singh has said that calling snap elections in December or early January would give the ruling party an advantage over a potentially unprepared opposition, in a recent interview with the Straits Times.
Mr Inderjit was responding to the formation of the Electoral Boundaries Review Committee (EBRC), that was announced by the Elections Department (ELD) yesterday (4 Sept). The formation of the committee marks the first firm step towards the next General Election (GE) and speculation on when the next GE will be called is rife.
In the past three General Elections (GEs), the EBRC has taken between two to four months to complete the review. The time between the release of the EBRC’s report and polling day has ranged from as little as 17 days to as long as six months, in Singapore history.
Mr Inderjit said that the ruling party would possibly benefit from calling snap elections in December or early January, since this would mean opposition parties would have less time to get prepared.
Opposition parties will need to wait for the EBRC to release its report to find out how the electoral boundaries have been re-drawn and decide which wards to target. Opposition parties would also have to discuss which ward they wish to contest with other parties, to avoid multiple-corner fights that could split the opposition vote.
If the time frame between the release of the EBRC report and polling day is short, the opposition may not be as well prepared as the ruling party. The EBRC reports to the Prime Minister – the leader of the ruling party – and his secretary chairs the committee.
Some political analysts who spoke to mainstream media publications echoed Mr Inderjit’s views. Dr Felix Tan, an associate lecturer at SIM Global Education, told the Straits Times: “There’s the element of surprise. How prepared will the opposition be to enter the fray in December?”
Dr Tan told TODAY that the EBRC has been making its deliberations for some time and “would not take long” now that the ELD has made the official announcement that it convened last month.
He forecast that the announcement would not have come so early and give the opposition more time to prepare, if the Government intends to hold the election in 2020 after the next Budget. Dr Tan said:
“Now that they have confirmed the formation of the EBRC, it could be as fast as next month, or in December, which has happened before. With the need to have a stable government before the economy gets worse…the political landscape may not be too fertile for the PAP as time drags on.”
Singapore Management University’s Associate Professor of Law Eugene Tan held a different view and said that the election could be called in seven months or even a full year after Budget 2019, since the Government would need to make financial provisions for the initiatives that were announced in PM Lee’s National Day Rally last month.
Speculating that next year’s Budget could even be pushed up, Assoc Prof Tan told TODAY that the calling of the next election would depend on whether the ruling party has firmed up its slate of candidates and on the state of the economy, among other factors.
Political observer Derek da Cunha seems to share Assoc Prof Tan’s views. Highlighting that the generally rainy December period would not be an ideal time for an election since it could impact the turnout at rallies, Dr da Cunha said calling an election in May 2020 could mean Budget 2020 may become an election budget.
Pointing out that both the 2006 and 2011 elections took place in May, Mr da Cunha told the national broadsheet that the calling of the next election would depend on the Prime Minister’s prerogative based on what would be the most beneficial period to call an election for his party’s success.
He added: “Any number of factors could intervene that could either hasten or delay his calling an election.”