By Gaspar Ruiz-Canela
Bangkok Desk, Jul 9 (efe-epa).- Singapore is gearing up for its Friday general election with the city-state of 5.6 million people facing its worst crisis since independence in 1965.
Since its foundation, the country has been ruled by the People’s Action Party (PAP), which goes into the polls as the favorite over the opposition Workers’ Party (WP).
After a campaign conducted mostly online due to coronavirus restrictions, the main issue on voters’ minds will be the economic rebuild facing Singapore amid the global pandemic. Here are some key points to the election:
1. ONLINE CAMPAIGN
The election campaign, which began on June 30 and concluded Tuesday, was conducted on social media and on television, as rallies were banned to avoid potential coronavirus outbreaks.
Candidates were allowed to campaign door-to-door, but only to groups of up to five people and without shaking hands, all while maintaining a safe distance. Voting is compulsory for 2.67 million Singaporean adults.
Singapore was one of the first countries to respond to the pandemic, and with only 23 deaths reported, the country has garnered international praise for its track-and-trace approach to containing outbreaks.
But the virus has devastated dormitories housing the city-state’s migrant workers, who make up 90 percent of the more than 45,000 confirmed cases.
2. RIVAL BROTHERS
The incumbent and leader of PAP, Lee Hsien Loong, is expected to secure another five-year mandate.
He has carried on the legacy of his father, Lee Kuan Yew, the man who founded Singapore and oversaw its development into a prosperous international financial center with liberal economic measures and authoritarian policies that values social harmony and stability more than freedom of expression.
Since 2017, he has been embroiled in a public feud with his siblings. His younger brother, Lee Hsien Yang, has pledged his support to the opposition Progress Singapore Party, which has campaigned on a platform of reducing inequality and to repeal the fake news law, which has been widely criticized by activists and journalists since it came into force in October.
3. A WEAK AND DIVIDED OPPOSITION
Only the PAP will contest all 93 seats in parliament, with none of the other 10 parties running for more than 24 seats. The party has ruled with a majority since 1963.
The PAP, which won 69.9 percent of the vote in the 2015 election, has 83 seats in parliament, while the opposition WP holds the remaining seats.
The opposition criticizes the electoral system for being disproportional and accuses the government of benefiting the PAP through gerrymandering.
In the highly unlikely event of what would be an unprecedented election win, the opposition has pledged to increase political transparency, create universal health care and lower the voting age from 21 to 18 years.
4. A BUDDING DEEP RECESSION
Singapore’s GDP is forecast to contract between 4 and 7 percent this year due to the economic standstill brought on by the COVID-19 pandemic in the first recession in the city-state since the 1998 financial crisis, and expected to be the worst since independence.