Early GE or delay till Covid-19 is controlled or when required by constitution?


My post is in response to former NMPs Calvin Cheng and Eugene Tan in Calvin’s public FB page and Eugene in ST Opinion.

1. Yes, no one knows when the situation will ebb. There is a year left till April 2021 and even if you minus off the very short period that is required by our constitution from dissolving of parliament to nomination and 9 days of campaigning plus 1 day cooling, there are still 10 months to go. There is no immediate necessity to call the GE now.

2. The government received a very strong mandate in 2015. So there is no question of the PAP needing a strong mandate to carry out what they need to do in a crisis. I do not know of any democratically elected government that has a stronger mandate. Nor has anyone stopped the government so far from doing what they need to do in this crisis. If they need to pass any new laws or implement any drastic measures in this near end-of-term period, they have the mandate to do so anyway. If they need to tap on reserves which I believe they will in tomorrow’s announcement, who will stop them? No fresh mandate is needed.

3. So what if there is still a bad Covid-19 situation nearing April 2021? Firstly, we often tend to overestimate how good or bad things are. China managed to control quite well in a short period. Italy seemed to have peaked. Yes, many countries are still climbing up the infection curve but countries have taken note of the seriousness and most have implemented quite drastic measures. Medical research is proceeding rapidly to find some cure. Even if we have to do GE in March / April 2021 with Covid-19 still very much in our midst, then we will just have to proceed and no one will fault the government for doing what is required constitutionally. If there had to be curbs on rallies and gatherings still by that time (hopefully with other alternatives allowed), there are no strong reasons to complain.

4. With no disrespect to Eugene or Calvin, for they have done their good contributions in parliament; they did not get into parliament by elections. I have contested, twice. I do not believe in going into a contest just to put my name up and hope for the best. Even if the odds are stacked heavily against me, even if I have to walk till my shoes break (which they had) and I lose my voice or suffer cramps from too much climbing of stairs (and I had many times), I will still have to contest as hard as I can knowing that if I lose, it is not for the lack of trying.

Any serious campaign will take not just the candidates but a large number of volunteers, reaching out to a large number of Singaporeans. Any serious party will have to make sure that their message reach to as many voters as possible. Rallies will not be allowed. Sure, there can be e-rallies but can these reach to all? Will it have the same effect?

Elections are once in 5 years. Do we accord seriousness to the process or are they meant to just endorse the incumbents? Will their candidates, especially the new ones who do not have to sweat it out to win support really understand their constituents?

In serious campaigning, there has to be house to house visits and outreach in public places. No matter how we try to have safeguards, the population will be unnecessarily exposed. Just take a look at the viral video of the PM’s visit to a market in Ang Mo Kio last weekend to see how all our social distancing rules were broken.

Right now, businesses and people are asked to make sacrifices to keep everyone safe. We are almost in a shutdown. We have gone past DOSCON Orange and are just a step short of Red. We appreciate these efforts to keep Singapore safe.

So if we call the GE now, a lot of campaigning activities will go on despite trying one’s best efforts to keep it lower key. The PAP is the price setter. They introduce new faces in public places and go about doing house and market visits, the price-takers will follow suit. If it has to take place, sure, the price-takers will have to be ready and will step up but is it what’s good for Singapore at this time?

If by March 2021 the situation has not improved and we really have to do a Covid-19 GE with restrictions, then I am sure Singaporeans will understand. But to force it now when there is no time urgency and when the priority should be Covid-19 containment, you will leave many with a bitter taste. Sure, the PAP will win again, but it will be tainted with #notmygovernment.

 

Note: This post is strictly my personal opinion. It was first published on www.fb.com/yeejj.wp. Since the publication of my opinion on FB, Singapore saw a huge jump of 73 new infections in a day, including 35 locally transmitted one, of which 18 were from the PCF Fengshan cluster. Nevertheless, Senior Minister Teo Chee Hean hinted of the strong likelihood of an early GE despite the rising number of cases.

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