Virus-hit Singapore heads for election ‘like no other’



Singapore’s leader called a general election “like no other” Tuesday as the prosperous city-state struggles to recover from a major coronavirus outbreak that swept through crowded migrant worker dormitories and raised questions about the treatment of the foreign labour force.
A raft of safety measures will be in place to prevent infections at next month’s election, with voters wearing masks and gloves at polling stations and campaign rallies likely to be banned.
Opposition groups have attacked the timing of the poll, with the Singapore Democratic Party saying that calling an election next month would “needlessly jeopardise the safety and health of Singaporeans”.
The financial hub initially won praise for keeping the virus in check with a rigorous system of testing and contact tracing, only for a wave of infections in dormitory complexes housing thousands of low-paid foreign workers.
But with the outbreak finally slowing, and authorities gradually loosening virus curbs, Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong announced parliament was being dissolved, and officials said the election would take place on July 10.
In a televised address announcing the polls, Lee said they would “clear the decks” and give the government a fresh mandate to focus on making difficult decisions.
“This general election will be like no other that we have experienced,” he said. “Not just because of the special arrangements to deal with COVID-19, but because of the gravity of the situation, and the issues at stake.” The virus has battered the city’s economy — which depends on trade and is sensitive to external shocks — and authorities say it may contract at its fastest rate this year since independence in 1965.
– Risky poll – The People’s Action Party (PAP) has ruled affluent Singapore since it gained self-rule from Britain in 1959, and the party — which holds 82 of 88 elected seats in parliament — is assured of victory.—AFP