By Gaspar Ruiz-Canela
Bangkok, Jul 9 (efe-epa).- Singapore’s ruling party is heading towards an almost certain victory on Friday’s election amid strict coronavirus prevention measures and a looming economic recession.
Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong’s ruling People’s Action Party (PAP) has led Singapore since independence in 1965 and the only question now is whether his party will lose parliamentary power to the opposition parties or cement his stronghold of the prosperous financial hub.
Some 2.67 million Singaporeans called to the polls under a compulsory voting system are enjoying a day of cooling on Thursday to decide which party they will support.
Lee is running as a firm favorite to win under a track record of improving standards of living and clamping down on corruption.
“A blast from the past from one of my Teck Ghee residents — my candidate card from 1984! I’ve been with residents here for 36 years. I hope you will elect my PAP team to continue serving you, to secure Our Lives, Our Jobs, Our Future. – LHL,” Lee wrote in his latest electoral tweet captioning a photo with a supporter.
Elections were brought forward from early 2021 in response to the pandemic and the economic challenges it has posed.
The campaign has been largely digital with social media and television campaigns due to a ban on rallies.
Lee, the son of Singapore’s founder Lee Kuan Yew (1923-2015), has posted a dozen tweets to his official account since the campaign started on 30 June, including three electoral messages in English, Chinese and Malay, three of the languages ??spoken in Singapore along with Tamil.
The PM seems unfazed at the prospect of losing seats in Parliament, where PAP currently has 83 and the remaining nine are held by opposition parties.
Historically PAP has never lost less than 93 percent of seats despite its vote share plummeting to 60 percent in 2011, according to the Singapore Elections Department.
But if this election were to see a drop in the vote share for PAP, it could signal a seismic political shift.
The main concerns for voters are Covid-19, of which there have been more than 45,000 cases in a country of 5.6 million and gloomy forecasts of a drop in GDP of between 4 and 7 percent.
Despite the millions injected into the economy through state aid packages, the economy is flailing with the planned closure of companies and growing unemployment which will mainly affect families with fewer resources.
High levels of economic inequality plague Singapore which also operates an alternative to the European and American style welfare states whereby citizens pay low taxes, cover their own social security and government spending on healthcare is minimal.
Electoral campaigns in the city-state have dealt with very local issues, although opposition parties have pushed to close the gap on inequality, establish universal health care and review restrictive laws that limit freedom of expression.
However, the opposition which is fragmented into 10 suits, fears PAP’s message of stability will prevail and that it could increase its presence in Parliament, leaving the remaining parties without seats.
“It is important that there is a credible opposition party” in Parliament to speak up for workers, Pritam Singh, leader of the Workers’ Party (WP) said during the campaign in an attempt to galvanize dissident voters.
One formation that could surprise is the Progress Singapore Party (PSP) founded in 2019.
Lee Hsien Yang, the president’s brother is a member of PSP and has been at loggerheads with the PM since 2017 for family and political reasons.