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  • The Centre of Expertise on Trade,
    Investment and Public Policy

    Elections Explainer: Singapore GE2020

    Published On: 8 July 2020

    Asia House Advisory has put together a guide to Singapore’s general election, which takes place this Friday.

    Singapore will head to the polls on Friday 10 July. The ruling People’s Action Party (PAP), helmed by Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong, is expected to retain its supermajority with ease. However, the size of the majority and its share of the vote will provide an interesting measure of public opinion on how the government has handled the economy over the past five years and, more recently, its handling of the COVID-19 pandemic.

    What is happening?

    Under Singapore’s electoral system, this cycle’s parliamentary elections have to be held no later than 14 April 2021. Elections have been called earlier than this date in order to “clear the decks” for a fresh mandate for the incoming government to make the necessary changes to shepherd the Singaporean economy out of the COVID crisis.

    The incumbent PAP will be facing 11 active opposition parties in this election. This will be the second time in Singapore’s history that all 93 seats that are up for grabs in this election will be contested by opposition parties.

    Given the current global environment, this is also one of only a few elections in the region taking place. New guidelines have been released in order to ensure safe campaigning and voting – thus forcing political parties to turn to non-traditional campaigning methods instead of the usual mass rallies and other large-scale public tactics. Special measures have also been put in place to ensure that Singaporeans serving quarantine or those who are unwell will still be able to vote.

    When will we know the results?

    Polling will be held throughout the day on Friday 10 July. The counting of votes will be done immediately after the close of the polls at 8pm (SGT) – with results to be announced on Friday night or in the early hours of Saturday morning. Results will be broadcast on Singaporean TV and radio channels – with a rough indication of results expected from 9:30 pm (SGT) on Friday, once a sample count of votes is released.

    Where are the key constituencies?

    This election will be conducted in 31 electoral divisions – 14 Single Member Constituencies (SMCs) and 17 Group Representation Constituencies (GRCs) – dependent on the size of each constituency. Most of these seats will see two-way races, with three-way fights in only two constituencies. Given Singapore’s first-past-the-post voting system, a simple majority will determine the winner of each GRC or SMC, and in most cases, this will likely be largely PAP-held.

    Though the PAP is expected to maintain its majority, its margin of victory and the performance of key opposition parties will provide interesting insights on public confidence.

    Key GRCs to watch this year will include:

    – Aljunied GRC: Opposition party the Workers’ Party (WP) took this GRC in the 2011 polls in a historic win, and retained 50 per cent of the vote in the 2015 contest. This is likely to be the most important contest in the country between the PAP and the WP.

    – East Coast GRC: Deputy Prime Minister Heng Swee Keat, who is tipped to succeed Lee as prime minister, will run in the East Coast GRC – a move that was confirmed minutes before nominations closed. Ostensibly placed here to “close the gap” for the PAP in the GRC, Heng’s margin of victory will be telling of public confidence in the country’s leadership succession plan.

    Why is this election important?

    The PAP’s margin of victory this year – and the performance of key opposition parties, including the WP, Singapore Democratic Party and the newly formed Progress Singapore Party– will reflect the perceived success of the government, particularly in managing the COVID-19 pandemic. This election will be important in both determining the ongoing appeal of the PAP, and a key test of the new generation of ministers who will soon be leading government.

    This election is likely to be Prime Minister Lee’s last before stepping down in the next two years., with current Deputy Prime Minister Heng Swee Keat tipped to succeed Lee.

    These elections will also be a key barometer of public opinion of Heng and the ‘fourth generation’ (4G) of cabinet ministers, who have fronted much of the COVID-19 response.

    Given the severity of the economic crisis that is looming – Singapore is expected to record its worst recession since independence – Prime Minister Lee has focused this campaign on both building up the new generation of leadership while signalling that he will only hand over power after the COVID-19 crisis abates and Singapore is “intact and (in) good working order.”

    This briefing was prepared by Asia House Advisory. Find out more about advisory services at Asia House.