Nomination Day yesterday made clear that the opposition intends to put up a vigorous challenge to the ruling People’s Action Party (PAP) in the general election on July 10. While the PAP is the only party with candidates contesting every seat, never before have so many political parties vied in a general election in Singapore’s history. And, for the second general election in a row, there will be challenges in all seats, of which there are 93 this time, spread across 17 group representation constituencies (GRCs) and 14 single-member constituencies (SMCs). The stage is set for a keen battle, and all 2.65 million eligible voters will get the opportunity to determine the party – and leaders – they want to take the country forward.
There should be a robust contest of plans, visions and policies in any election, but the year’s polls is of especial significance because the coronavirus outbreak and its impact represent a watershed moment in independent Singapore. The agenda could not be clearer: how to overcome the twin challenges of safeguarding public health and a deep economic crisis that has pummelled jobs and businesses. In the coming years, policies need to be made simultaneously for the short and medium terms, without ignoring their likely impact, lasting into the long term. The formulation and implementation of policies will have to be sensitive to developments and the mood on the ground – but without succumbing to populism, or giving in to vocal sectoral demands that will impose a major cost on the entire nation later.