SINGAPORE: Candidates continue to walk the ground and harness technology to canvass for votes on Sunday (Jul 5) as Singapore prepares for a General Election like no other, set against the uncertain backdrop of COVID-19.
The outbreak, particularly how it has evolved in Singapore and what more needs to be done, has become a focus at hustings, with the retention and creation of jobs and innovation in a post-pandemic world among topics raised during online rallies and televised constituency political broadcasts.
Online campaigning for GE2020 has been “extremely candid” – a departure from the “prepared form of campaigning” in 2015, said People’s Action Party’s Sun Xueling.
This is the first time Ms Sun is standing in a Single Member Constituency (SMC), after Punggol West was carved out of Pasir Ris-Punggol GRC for the 2020 election.
Speaking to the media outside the Foodfare coffee shop at Block 273C Punggol Place, Ms Sun said contesting in an SMC means she has “a lot of flexibility to decide on topics as well as outreach channels”.
Her go-to platform has been Facebook Live, which she finds “the most natural”.
“These are all extremely candid. These are not prepared, planned for,” she said. “And you realise that the sound quality is not very good because to be honest when you’re on the go and you’re meeting people and it’s all candid, you don’t exactly have all your systems and sound management stuff with you. But I think what’s important is this is regular everyday life.”
Ms Sun is up against Workers’ Party candidate Tan Chen Chen, a 38-year-old contracts administrator.
The Non-Constituency Member of Parliament scheme is a “stabiliser” for Singapore’s electoral system, said former Prime Minister Goh Chok Tong in a Facebook post last night, amid debate about the scheme, which ensures a minimum of 12 opposition voices in Parliament no matter how the vote turns out.
Opposition parties have said that NCMPs are not as effective as elected MPs in representing the people.
“If Singaporeans consciously vote to remove the ruling party from government, that’s their political right. But if they vote for the opposition to ensure checks and balances in Parliament, even though they still want the ruling party to form the government, then an unintended election outcome is entirely possible,” said Mr Goh.
Three members of the Workers’ Party (WP) Aljunied team – party chief Pritam Singh, vice-chair Faisal Manap and Mr Gerald Giam – were on a walkabout at a hawker centre and wet market along Bedok North Street 3 on Sunday morning.
They gave out party fliers, posed for photos and interacted with residents for about an hour.
Former party chief Low Thia Khiang was there as well.
When residents asked about his health, Mr Low gave a thumbs-up and replied “Good!” in English, Mandarin and various dialects.
He also posed for photos and signed a copy of the Workers’ Party’s 60th anniversary commemorative book.
Mr Low and Mr Chen Show Mao – former MPs for Aljunied GRC – are not standing in this General Election. Their seats will be defended by Mr Leon Perera and Mr Giam.
Mediacorp will air five more constituency political broadcasts at 7pm on Sunday night, for Jalan Besar GRC, Jurong GRC, Kebun Baru SMC, MacPherson SMC and Marine Parade GRC.
The order of the broadcasts is based on the alphabetical ordering of the constituencies.
The People’s Action Party (PAP) team for the newly formed Sengkang GRC have made plans to set up a new town council in order to address “municipal issues” residents have highlighted, said PAP candidate Raymond Lye.
Speaking in a Facebook Live session with the rest of PAP’s candidates for Sengkang GRC, Mr Lye – who is a new face to the party – said Sengkang residents had told them that their feedback had not been dealt with at a speed they expect.
The Workers’ Party’s (WP) Dennis Tan and the People’s Action Party’s (PAP) Lee Hong Chuang delivered their constituency political broadcasts for Hougang SMC.
Mr Tan, who was chosen by WP to stand in the place of its former Member of Parliament for Hougang, Mr Png Eng Huat, had his address broadcast first. Mr Tan, a former Non-Constituency Member of Parliament, began his speech by talking about how Hougang voters have, since 1991, understood the importance of having an alternative voice in Parliament “more than anyone else in Singapore”.
The WP has held the single-seat ward since former party chief Low Thia Khiang wrested it from the PAP in 1991.
Mr Tan also spoke about the COVID-19 pandemic, saying that the Government’s handling of the crisis has “left much to be desired”. With the challenges that Singapore face in a post-COVID-19 world, there is a need for a “balanced Parliament”, he said.
Mr Lee spoke of the “family spirit” in Hougang, saying that it is like “a big family community that rallies around when one of our own is in need”.
“We need to take care of our seniors, the families, the young and the youth regardless of race, language or religion,” he said. Touching on the COVID-19 pandemic, Mr Lee noted that it has affected the livelihoods of many Singaporeans and promised to create job opportunities for Hougang residents.
The People’s Action Party’s (PAP) Amy Khor and the Progress Singapore Party’s (PSP) Gigene Wong delivered their constituency political broadcasts for the Hong Kah North SMC.
Dr Khor focused on the constituency and highlighted her experience of working in the estate for more than 18 years. The Senior Minister of State for Health and the Environment and Water Resources won the Single Member Constituency seat in 2011, and was formerly a Member of Parliament for Hong Kah GRC between 2001 and 2011.
“I am no stranger to you,” she said in her two-and-a-half-minute speech that was mostly in English. “You are now like a family to me.”
Ms Wong in her broadcast said the people were not happy. “Why are we still not happy?” she asked.
She said it was because there was a lack of democracy, justice and equality.
“Are the opportunities and the jobs given to Singaporeans? Why our Government can treat us in this way?” she said. “Because Singaporeans never challenge our Government on transparency and accountability.”
The People’s Action Party (PAP) and the Singapore Democratic Party (SDP) delivered their constituency political broadcast for the Holland-Bukit Timah GRC.
PAP’s Dr Vivian Balakrishnan said that it has been a privilege to serve in Holland-Bukit Timah for almost 20 years.
He noted that this General Election takes place during the deepest crisis confronting Singapore since independence.
“In fact, it is a global crisis. The choice you will make at this election will determine a Government that will have to make profound decisions with deep impact for many years to come,” he said.
SDP’s Dr Gomez spoke about the Government’s handling of the COVID-19 pandemic.
“The PAP has mishandled the COVID-19 pandemic. They were wrong to ask us not to wear masks, they were wrong not to isolate affected workers and housing them in crowded dormitories and wrong in keeping schools open,” he stated.
“They politicised the management of COVID-19 task force by appointing themselves, not medical experts, and promoted themselves in front of the media,” he said.
Securing and creating jobs remain the “top priority” for the People Action Party, said Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong.
Speaking in a Facebook Live video with the party’s candidates contesting in Sengkang GRC, Mr Lee said while schemes are currently in place, proper implementation is also required to ensure they benefit Singaporeans.
The People’s Action Party (PAP) and the Workers’ Party (WP) delivered their constituency political broadcasts for East Coast GRC.
For the PAP, Deputy Prime Minister Heng Swee Keat promised East Coast residents that their needs would be taken care of in “these difficult times”.
“We’re all concerned about COVID-19. We understand your anxiety about your jobs and your families,” he said.
“Let me assure you that, once elected, the PAP team at East Coast, and the PAP Government, will continue to work hard to see us through this crisis.”
The WP’s Mr Terence Tan said COVID-19 has stress-tested the resilience of Singapore’s economy, with businesses shuttering and unemployment rising.
Singapore was already at an “inflexion point” before the pandemic, he said, and businesses and households had insufficient reserves to “weather this current storm”.
“COVID has exposed the urgent need for bold structural and fiscal reforms, if the aim is to make our local businesses and households financially self-reliant and our economy buoyant, going forward,” he said.