Election campaign kicks off in Singapore amid distancing measures

Bangkok, Jun 30 (efe-epa).- Political campaigns kicked off in Singapore on Tuesday ahead of the upcoming general elections next month, amid strict physical distancing measures to check the spread of the novel coronavirus.

The elections are scheduled to be held on Jul.10, in which Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong is a strong favorite in his bid to get reelected.

All parties seeking to contest the elections were required to register their candidates at electoral offices especially set up for the occasion.

Unlike earlier occasions, when different political groups filed their nominations in a colorful show of strength, this time there was no such fanfare.

The election commission has banned supporters and the general public from gathering and forming crowds, as part of measures to contain the pandemic, which has infected 43,661 people and caused 26 deaths in the city-state so far.

Lee Hsien Loong, leader of the People’s Action Party – which has won all elections since Singapore gained independence in 1965 – arrived at the nomination center along with other members of the party, all of them wearing face masks.

The 68-year-old leader, who has often announced he will retire from the position at the age of 70, is being seen as the favorite to win the election and govern for another four years.

“It’s a general election for the most important issues concerning the country at a moment of crisis,” the prime minister said after filing his nomination.

Campaigning will continue until Jul.8, followed by a one-day break before polling booths open on Jul.10 for Singapore’s 2.67 million citizens.

Last week, Singapore announced holding early elections so as to have a government ready to tackle the health and economic crisis caused by the Covid-19 pandemic, as well as other challenges such as the ongoing tensions between the United States and China.

Although parties will not be able to organize rallies because of physical distancing norms, authorities have allowed door-to-door campaigning and facilitated the use of television and social networks by the candidates.

The prime minister’s brother Lee Hsien Yang finally decided not to contest the elections as an opposition candidate, although he lashed out against his brother on social media for using the legacy of their father Lee Kuan Yew – the founder of modern Singapore – for political gains.

“When people enter politics on the back of the family name, they are often evaluated based on their parents and not their performance,” he said, urging people to support the opposition, or the Progress Singapore Party.

“This unfair advantage undermines meritocracy. How can we expect politicians to hold each other to account, if they are blood relations?” he underlined. EFE-EPA


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