Workers’ Party (WP) secretary-general revealed that he discussed the “September election” with veteran politician Tan Cheng Bock at the WP’s National Day Dinner, on Sunday (31 Aug).
Mr Pritam is the leader of the only opposition party that currently has a presence in Parliament while Dr Tan is the very first ex-ruling party parliamentarian to start his own opposition party in Singapore’s history.
In January, Dr Tan announced the formation of his own opposition party, the Progress Singapore Party (PSP), and promised that his party is willing to work with “others in the opposition who are passionate about putting country first – before either party or self.”
Revealing that Dr Tan supported his party by buying a table, Mr Pritam wrote on Instagram: “Enjoyed chatting with Aljunied-Hougang Town residents and supporters of all stripes at the Workers’ Party National Day Dinner just now. Thanked Dr Tan Cheng Bock for buying a table and discussed that “September election” over a Blue Hammer cocktail!”
Although many Singaporeans have speculated that the next General Election (ge) – which must be held by 15 April 2021 – could be called as early as this year, there are no clear indications that the GE will take place in 2019.
Last November, Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong teased that it is “possible” that the next GE may be called as early as 2019, leading many to speculate that the election will take place in September 2019, since it is the same year that the nation celebrates the 200th anniversary of Sir Stamford Raffles’ arrival in Singapore.
When PM Lee was asked directly whether the bicentennial celebrations would be a reason to bring the election forward, he responded: “It’s always possible. There are many reasons to bring elections forward or not, so we’ll see.”
While many opposition members have been preparing for the possibility of a “September election,” it appears unlikely that the GE will take place this month.
The clearest indication of when the GE might occur would be the formation of the Electoral Boundaries Review Committee (EBRC), which decides how electoral wards should be drawn or altered. The Prime Minister usually convenes the EBRC, which typically takes 2-4 months to decide on how the electoral wards should be re-drawn.
It seems unlikely that the next GE would be called in September 2019 since the EBRC would need a few months to decide on the drawing of the electoral map, once convened. It is also unlikely that an election will be called at the end of the year, due to the school holiday period.
In July, WP member Yee Jenn Jong said that his party does not know when the next General Election (GE) will be called since “the ruling party has the sole rights to decide as the elections department reports to the Prime Minister.”
He added: “No one will know if the Elections Boundaries Review Committee has been formed unless you keep asking in parliament every month, a rather ridiculous situation for a democracy.”
That same month, Minister for Trade and Industry and second assistant secretary-general of the ruling party, Chan Chun Sing, confirmed that the EBRC has not been formed. Mainstream media publication TODAY took this as a sign that the next GE is “not imminent.”
Last month, the Elections Department (ELD) debunked a viral social media post stating that the next GE will be held on 21 September 2019.
The post stated that Parliament will be dissolved on 31 August and that Nomination Day will take place on 10 September before the people go to the polls on 21 September. It added that teachers are being notified to prepare for election duties accordingly:
The ELD asserted that the information is “fake news” and that it did not originate from the authority. It said: “The dates for nomination and polling mentioned in the online forum/WhatsApp are not from the Elections Department. It is also not true that teachers have received such a notification. They are fake news.”