COVID-19 rules cause voting delays in Singapore elections

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Officials in Singapore apologised for long queues outside polling stations on Friday, where voting was slowed down by hygiene and distancing rules aimed at preventing the spread of the coronavirus.

“We are sorry for the wait and inconvenience to voters,” the Elections Department Singapore said.

With voting compulsory, 80 per cent of the 2.65 million-strong electorate had cast their ballots by 5 pm (0900 GMT), the ELD said.

Voters are having their temperatures taken before entering booths to choose from 192 candidates representing 11 political parties chasing 93 seats.

The ELD announced on Friday afternoon that voters no longer need to pull on disposable gloves before marking ballot papers after the requirement caused delays during the early hours of voting.

With people over 60 deemed most at risk from serious illness if infected by the coronavirus, older voters were requested by officials to cast their ballots before noon, with younger voters expected to wait until later in the day.

Voting began at 8 am on Friday after a short campaign in which public rallies were not allowed due to the virus.

Voting closes at 8 pm, with results expected from around three hours later.

The outcome is expected to be business as usual: the ruling People’s Action Party (PAP) took 83 seats in the 2015 elections and has won at least 60 per cent of the popular vote in every contest held since Singaporean independence in 1965.

The small chance of success has left opposition parties to appeal to voters not to issue a “blank cheque” to PAP.

PAP is led by Lee Hsien Loong, prime minister since 2004 and son of Lee Kuan Yew, an autocrat who steered the tiny city-state toward prosperity and was one of Asia’s best-known politicians during the late 20th century.

But in late June, the prime minister’s brother Lee Hsien Yang shook up what would ordinarily be a staid campaign by backing the new Progress Singapore Party (PSP) – after a sibling squabble over the late Lee’s estate.

PAP candidates have repeatedly raised the need for a “strong” government to deal with the novel coronavirus pandemic.

On Friday, as thousands lined up to vote, the Ministry of Health confirmed 191 new cases, taking the total to 45,614. Singapore’s gross domestic product could contract by up to 7 per cent in 2020, according to official projections.

“Our economy has been badly hit, though the full economic impact of the outbreak is still ahead of us,” the prime minister said in a final pre-vote statement.

Lee called on Singaporeans to “not just to return the PAP to government. But also to give it a strong mandate.”

Sylvia Lim, chair of the Workers’ Party, which won six seats in 2015, said that “robust democracies where changes of the party in power at election time are considered normal” also dealt successfully with the pandemic, citing countries such as New Zealand and South Korea.

PSP leader Tan Cheng Bock called for a legislature that “that reflects all views, and not just the PAP view or the group-think of a single political party.” (dpa/NAN)

– Jul. 10, 2020 @ 13:55 GMT |

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