Opposition leaders Tan Cheng Bock, Chee Soon Juan call for GE to be put off until Covid-19 abates
SINGAPORE — Opposition leaders Tan Cheng Bock and Chee Soon Juan have repeated their parties’ calls for the Government to hold off the next general election until after the Covid-19 outbreak blows over.
SINGAPORE — Opposition leaders Tan Cheng Bock and Chee Soon Juan have repeated their parties’ calls for the Government to hold off the next General Election until after the Covid-19 outbreak blows over.
The election must be held before April 21 next year, when the incumbent Government’s term ends. Should the crisis persist till then, Progress Singapore Party (PSP) chief Tan suggested on Saturday (March 14) that President Halimah Yacob exercise her “soft power” and form a caretaker government comprising some current Members of Parliament.
“Subsequently, call for fresh elections when Covid-19 is no longer a crisis,” Dr Tan, a retired medical doctor, said in a three-minute video posted on the PSP’s social media pages.
The other two options that he proposed are to call the election when Covid-19 is no longer a crisis, or to hold it in April 2021.
Dr Tan added: “In the interest of the people, the Progress Singapore Party strongly urges the Government not to hold a general election while the Covid-19 pandemic is still with us.”
The disease had by Saturday infected 212 people in Singapore. It began in China late last year and has since raged across the world.
COVID-19 CRISIS ‘AT ITS MOST CRITICAL’: SDP
Similarly, Singapore Democratic Party (SDP) head Chee on Saturday urged the Government not to hold the election until there are clear signs that the situation has abated.
He was speaking to reporters at a blood donation drive in Dhoby Ghaut.
In a statement later in the day, the SDP said the Covid-19 crisis was “at its most critical”, with the World Health Organisation, the global public health agency of the United Nations, having just declared the disease a pandemic.
“The PAP cannot place its own political interest over the health and safety of the Singaporean people,” said the SDP, referring to the People’s Action Party.
“It would be the height of irresponsibility if it goes ahead with the general election at a time when public safety is at its most vulnerable.”
On Saturday afternoon, Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong said that if the polls were held before the pandemic is over, the authorities would take all the necessary precautions so that parties can campaign effectively and people can vote safely.
Writing on Facebook, he laid out two options for the election: Hold it under “more normal circumstances” if things stabilise before the end of the term, or call it early to elect a new government with “a fresh mandate and a full term ahead of it”.
The prime minister had warned on Thursday that the outbreak would continue for some time — “a year and maybe longer”.
The SDP said that a mandate from an election held during a health crisis would be “hollow and meaningless”.
“To claim endorsement of an agenda based on such opportunistic politicking will further divide the people rather than unite us,” the party added.
The chorus of concern from opposition parties at the prospect of early polls being held amid the health crisis began on Friday, when a committee mapping out electoral divisions for the next election released its report.
This marks the penultimate step before Parliament can be dissolved for the polls, the clearest sign that the election could be just weeks or months away.
POLLS COULD EXPOSE SCORES OF VOTERS TO VIRUS
Dr Tan said there would be “potential mass exposure” to the virus if the election were to be held during the outbreak. Voting is compulsory in Singapore.
“During the campaign period, there will be rallies and many other large-group election activities being held. Is this a risk we want to take?” Dr Tan asked.
He noted that other countries with pending elections have postponed them. For instance, local and mayoral elections in England have been put off for a year until May 2021 because of Covid-19.
Dr Tan added: “We should put politics aside, (and) take care of our people’s health and welfare first.”
Echoing this view, Dr Chee said: “Let us leave aside politics for the time being. Let us come together to do what we can to arrest the situation.”