Singapore— In an interview with Channel NewsAsia on Wednesday (May 27), Deputy Prime Minister Heng Swee Keat pointed out that the country will be facing many challenges over the next decade and the sooner the upcoming General Election (GE) is called, the sooner that Singaporeans can come together to tackle those issues.
The next GE must be called by April 14 of next year, and Parliament must be dissolved by January.
The interviewer asked if Singaporeans need to wait until Phase 3 of the easing of circuit breaker restrictions before the upcoming General Election is called. The Deputy Prime Minister said that “elections are coming nearer by the day.“
He added, “The sooner we get it done, the earlier we can rally everybody together to deal with these very significant challenges ahead, and also to deal with these very significant uncertainties in the months and years ahead.”
The GE will bring the country together, which will help in recovering even stronger after the coronavirus pandemic, Mr Heng said, especially since the path ahead will not be easy, nor will recovery take place in a short amount of time.
He added that “a long runway” is needed in solving the economic and structural challenges that the pandemic has brought on, and Singapore may even need the next decade to come out stronger than ever.
“It is not a set of issues that we deal with over the next six to nine months or one year, but a set of issues that we need to deal with over the next five and even 10 years for us to emerge stronger, for us to manage this crisis of a generation as best as we can.
So it is important for all Singaporeans to begin to focus our minds on how we can come together to overcome this crisis of our generation and how we can then rally together to emerge stronger.”
As an example of a nation that was able to successfully hold elections during the pandemic, the Deputy Prime Minister mentioned South Korea, which saw a record number of voters trooping to the polls despite the coronavirus outbreak.
In April, South Korea took precautions such as social distancing, taking voters’ temperatures, and having them wear masks and plastic gloves as they cast their votes.
The Deputy Prime Minister emphasized that “public health considerations and public safety will be a foremost consideration” when the GE is held in Singapore, which implies that how voting will be done will be different from the past.
Parliament passed a law earlier this month allowing for special arrangements in the event that Singaporeans need to cast their votes amid the coronavirus crisis.
The law, called The Parliamentary Elections (Covid-19 Special Arrangements) Act, was passed to ensure that voters, candidates, and election officials would remain safe by arranging for electors under movement control to vote and excusing those who cannot. Additionally, under this law, those who wish to contest in the elections but are unable to do so may authorise a representative to do so in their stead.
Trade and Industry Minister Chan Chun Sing, who spoke in Parliament on behalf of Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong concerning the Bill and answered questions during the debate, said that planning ahead is vital, given the short amount of time left before the elections must be held.
He said that this would “keep our citizens safe while upholding our democracy,” and added, ”In a few short months, the way we live, work and interact with others has changed drastically. Will we revert to the pre-Covid-19 norms? Nobody knows. But we cannot plan on the basis that it will. Instead, we need to plan ahead and put in the necessary measures, so that we can hold elections safely even under the new and evolving Covid-19 norms.” -/TISG