Majority Of Singaporeans Prefer To Wait Till Threat Of Covid-19 Is Over Before Holding Elections

As the Covid-19 pandemic fills the thoughts of people in Singapore — and indeed, the world at large — we have been given an unlikely reason to take our minds off the virus: An upcoming general election.

When the Electoral Boundaries Review Committee released its report on 13 Mar, thereby determining where citizens would vote in the upcoming elections, it was widely speculated that the general election would take place sooner rather than later.

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How do the people feel?

But given the unexpected outbreak of Covid-19, and the fact that the number of cases in Singapore is getting higher and higher, is it the correct time for a general election?

As what Singaporeans think has a direct impact on the outcome of the elections, MS News decided to hold a poll of our own over our Telegram channel to get a general sense of what the voter population felt.

The question posed was simple: Would you rather have the general election earlier (within the next few months) or later (but before Apr 2021 — that’s when it must be held by)?

You can view the poll via the link here. The poll is still open, so feel free to vote anytime you want.

Votes are in, & “later” wins by a landslide

So far the results have been unsurprising.

Out of more than 2,600 votes garnered as of Thursday (19 Mar) afternoon, 80% have voted that they would rather have the general election later.

We think it can be safely said that it’s quite a sizeable majority.

What are the reasons for this landslide?

To get a sense of the reasons behind this view, we sought opinions from a few Singaporeans, and formulated a few broad reasons for why citizens preferred the later option.

1. Rallies, outreach events involve gatherings of many people

This is by the far the strongest reason for not having the elections now. After all, didn’t the Government just advise us to adopt social distancing measures, with Health Minister Gan Kim Yong calling those who attend events while unwell “socially irresponsible”?

Well, a general election typically involves many people gathering at rallies and polling stations — not a wise decision during this time.

Photographer Nick Lee, 26, said:

Not wise to have people gather in rallies or polling stations with the virus still not fully under control.

Researcher Denise, 36, put it succinctly by saying:

Any outreach efforts or rallies would put people at risk… Why put citizens at risk when they can postpone it to a better time?

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On the use of technology to have e-rallies and e-polling, Denise said it’s possible to some extent, but:

Why spend precious resources and time developing these systems when there are more urgent needs on the ground? Like supporting workers who are retrenched or losing part of their earnings?

2. There will be suspicions that the outbreak is being used for political purposes

Financial consultant Liqing, 26 said the she thinks the outbreak would be an opportunity for the effectiveness of the current government to be showcased in an even better light:

If we elect now, you will suddenly see the current ruling party “up their game” to persuade us that they are worth voting back in.

After all, why wouldn’t you vote for a government that has been effective in controlling the outbreak?

But would that just be seen as opportunism? Denise seems to think so:

Obviously they are capitalising on the outbreak just like how they timed the last elections after LKY’s death… Or because they know the public sentiment is very positive now because the government handled the crisis well.

She’s also afraid that holding the election now will give the opposition an even bigger disadvantage:

Outreach efforts by the opposition would be compromised due to Covid-19 so it will be hard for them, especially the newer candidates and parties, to shore up support.

And if rallies are cancelled to prevent the gatherings of large crowds, that will also affect the opposition parties, which based on previous elections, draw bigger crowds to their rallies, she said.

3. Elections will take up our leaders’ time when they should be focusing on fighting Covid-19

Another concern brought up by our interviewees was that a general election would involve the dissolving of Parliament and take up a lot of our politicians time when they could be spending that time thinking of ways to stop the spread of Covid-19.

As engineer George Wee, 32, asked:

Don’t they have more important things to do — like, you know, battle a pandemic?

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4. Singaporeans are worried & not in the mood for an election

It’s obvious that there are many Singaporeans who are anxious about the current situation, as evidenced by the panic buying going on.

Empathising with them, George said that people are just not in the right mood for an election:

People are already panicking and worried that they or their loved ones will succumb to the virus. No one wants to think about who to elect now.

5. Covid-19 & the ensuing recession is a test of current government’s credentials

A crisis like Covid-19, which will definitely also bring about a subsequent threat of economic recession is the perfect way to test out how the Government deals with the pressure.

So far, we have been doing well, considering the amount of praise we have received from many quarters over our handling of the crisis.

George also agreed that since the current government is already handling the crisis, they should continue to do so rather than hand it over to a new government:

They should finish what they started, especially since Singapore’s currently being applauded for their efforts in handling the virus situation.

When will the general election be?

Based on what we have heard, Singaporeans do have several good reasons as to why they think the elections should wait.

Will the Government heed these views? Or do they think Singapore is best served by getting the general election over and done with, so that they can have a fresh mandate to govern and handle the ongoing crisis?

That’s a decision that’s thankfully above our pay grade.

Whenever the elections are called, we hope that everyone stays safe and finds some time to gather our thoughts to vote wisely.

Featured image adapted from Facebook and Facebook.