SINGAPORE – The release of the electoral boundaries report on Friday (March 13) has set off speculation about when the General Election might take place.
Observers had earlier picked out two possible windows for this year – March to April and May to mid-June – both of which are now in play given the timing of the report.
A significant delay prompted by the Covid-19 outbreak now appears unlikely.
Dr Felix Tan, associate lecturer at SIM Global Education, said: “With the report coming out sooner than expected, we are perhaps looking at some time in the May period.”
He said that the election is likely to go ahead in the midst of the Covid-19 outbreak.
“The Singapore government will want to get this election over and done with, so it can focus on tackling the issue of the pandemic, which is getting worse around the world,” said Dr Tan.
He added that prior to the coronavirus pandemic, voters had already been expecting an election this year anyway, so there is “no point playing the waiting game”.
Associate Professor Bilveer Singh from the National University of Singapore’s political science department, said that with the Covid-19 outbreak expected to last for a long time, there is “no use waiting for it to be over” before calling the election.
He added that some opposition parties are in “disarray”. They have not been able to conduct outreach efforts on the ground due to the outbreak, and some of them also appear to experience infighting. A proposed four-party alliance has also not materialised.
Election rules do not mandate a time period between the release of a boundaries report and an election, though there are fixed timelines once a writ of election is issued and parliament is dissolved.
Nomination day must take place at least five working days from the date of the writ. From Nomination day, there will be nine days of campaigning and one cooling-off day before Singaporeans head to the voting booth.
Speculation this time around appears to be centred on three possible dates.
The first is Saturday, April 18. The April calendar has a number of significant religious festivals, with the weekend of the 18th likely the most suitable one for Polling Day.
That would avoid the need to have an election on Easter weekend (April 11-12) or during the holy Muslim month of Ramadan, which begins on April 23.
However, should an election take place during the month of Ramadan, observers point to the first weekend of May as a possibility. With Labour Day taking place on Friday May 1, the election could be timed to have Cooling Off Day on Saturday, May 2 with Polling Day on May 3. Elections in 2006 and 2011 both took place in early May.
Should that window pass, the third date observers are pointing to is is the first weekend of June. If the writ of election is issued soon after the Hari Raya Puasa public holidays on May 24 and 25, election day would then be on the weekend of June 6 or June 7 – during the school holidays.
Dr Bilveer said he did not think the election day would be pushed back beyond National Day, in order to keep the risk of unforeseen events like a sharp spike in Covid-19 infections low.
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