So what’s new? The Electoral Boundaries Review Committee’s (EBRC) has been very diligent during this Covid-19 pandemic. Their report was released on 13 Mar 2020. There will be 31 electoral divisions, up from 29, with a total of 93 seats in Parliament, 4 more than the 89 in the House currently. Good news for opposition parties, there will be no 6-member GRCs in the coming election. There will be 14 Single Member Constituencies (SMCs), one more than the current 13. Wait a minute. Good news?
Let’s take a look at a few details. First of all, a new Sengkang GRC has been created with four seats, bringing the number of GRCs to 17, up from the current 16. West Coast GRC, originally a 4-member GRC, is going to be a 5-member GRC. Guess who will be contesting there.
A lot of carving and grafting also went into the new list of SMCs. Immediately after the publication of the report, the Workers’ Party questioned the removal of Sengkang West, Fengshan and Punggol East SMCs. Coincidentally, WP had contested in all three of the disappeared SMCs in the 2015 General Election, and had lost by fewer than 10 per cent of votes in Fengshan and and Punggol East SMCs. As usual, no explanation from the ERBC. Just a coincidence perhaps. Or should we wait for some unofficial explanation from the PLP (Pathetic Lightning Polishers) Club.
Another issue that may irk those who have nothing better to do than to watch and analyse the GE is the thing that everyone has been preoccupied with for more than a month now. Yes, the Covid-19 pandemic! Hold elections now? Yao mo gao chor ah? I remember Gintai (former SMRT blogger) asked me (about 3 weeks ago) when I thought the elections would be held. I told him that our government would probably play safe and wait till this Covid-19 storm has somewhat abated before holding the elections; end of 2020, perhaps.
Well, I was wrong. One day after the release of the EBRC report, our PM said that there are “two choices” when it comes to the timing of the General Election – to hold elections after things stabilise or to call elections early.
“We have two choices. Either hope and pray that things will stabilise before the end of the term so that we can hold elections under more normal circumstances – but we have no certainty of that,” he wrote.
“Or else call elections early, knowing that we are going into a hurricane, to elect a new government with a fresh mandate and a full term ahead of it, which can work with Singaporeans on the critical tasks at hand.”
Frankly, I don’t understand the “two choices”. I thought there is only one choice and that is to wait until conditions are more suitable and you hope and pray only when the odds are against you. Even if the virus were still around by early 2021, holding the elections then wouldn’t have been worse than holding it now. In fact, chances are, conditions would be better by then.
Next, what are the critical tasks at hand? Does the incumbent have any problems managing the pandemic without having Parliament dissolved and reinstated in more or less the same composition? Do we really have two choices? For the sake of my people, I would not think twice about holding the elections later – which is probably why I can never be a political leader. My application to join the PLP Club may even get rejected. These folks really think quite differently.
Meanwhile, private-sector economists see the Singapore economy contracting by 0.8 per cent in the first quarter of 2020 from the Covid-19 impact, while slashing their forecast for full-year growth to 0.6 per cent. The Singapore Government also downgraded its own forecast of gross domestic product growth by a full percentage point to a -0.5 per cent to 1.5 per cent range last month. The range raised the spectre of the first full-year recession for Singapore in about two decades. No! Not the R word! Singaporeans who are banking on bubbles that never burst hate that word. For them, the R word is a lot more frightening than the G word that many accuse the EBRC of. Why bother with G when there is an R in the pipeline? Many businesses are suffering. Taxi drivers are returning their vehicles. Retailers see a slump. Even the toiletries sellers who were laughing their way to the bank now see their bottles of Dettol and mountains of toilet paper collecting dust. Orthodontists are seeing their worst months ever. Few people would want to straighten his/her teeth at this time. Our businesses need help but so far, they’re just getting kacang puteh. They need more. And before you can say the name that begins with H …
Three cheers for President Halimah. Can we vote now? Wait a minute. What about campaigning? With the implementation of social distancing, how are we going to set up our polling stations? Maybe we can all vote online, but what about rallies? What about walkabouts? I’m sure all these are going to be banned. Shucks. I’m going to miss my free char beehoon and transport. Or maybe rallies with fewer than 100 attendees would be allowed. The folks who consistently pull in massive crowds are going to be disproportionately affected by the same regulations that are supposed to be fair because they are applied “across the board”.
Yes, I was wrong about GE2020 – that it would be held late because the Covid-19 pandemic will pose all kinds of problems for the accompanying activities. At that point in time, I failed to see that holding GE2020 in the midst of the pandemic does give the ruling party an edge – an enormous one in fact.
Just throw out some kacang puteh for the desperate monkeys. Offer to give more after the elections, but doesn’t President Halimah need to approve any withdrawal from past reserves? We better make sure we vote in the right government. Join the Pathetic Lightning Polishers (PLP) Club if you haven’t done so today.