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Singapore sets stage for polls despite virus

There had been doubts the election, which must happen by April 2021 at the latest, would take place in the near future due to the virus -- the city-state has so far reported 200 cases.

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Changes to Singapore’s electoral boundaries were announced Friday, setting the stage for polls soon, with an opposition party saying any move to conduct elections during the coronavirus outbreak would be “irresponsible”.

There had been doubts the election, which must happen by April 2021 at the latest, would take place in the near future due to the virus — the city-state has so far reported 200 cases.

Boundary changes are seen as a key step on the path to holding elections in Singapore, as in the past polls have come within months of the alterations being announced.

The government had accepted recommendations made to it by a boundaries review committee, according to a report submitted in parliament Friday.

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The People’s Action Party (PAP) has ruled Singapore for decades and is expected to comfortably win, with a weak opposition seen as little real challenge.

The polls are viewed as important as Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong, the son of Singapore’s founding leader Lee Kuan Yew, has said he will step down afterwards and hand power to a new generation of leaders.

On Thursday the Singapore Democratic Party (SDP), one of a handful of small opposition groups, said it would be an “irresponsible act” to hold elections during the virus outbreak.

“We hope that the PAP will not capitalise on the crisis by holding the (election) at this time as it will take away valuable resources needed to combat the virus outbreak and jeopardise the public’s health and well-being,” it said in a statement.

Another opposition group, the Workers’ Party, said that the committee deciding on the changes had “not disclosed how it came to its decisions”, and three constituencies where it had long been active had been dissolved.

Critics have long accused the PAP of using boundary changes to tilt polls in its favour.

The changes included increasing the number of seats in parliament to 93, from 89 currently.

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