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Is Singapore heading for a September General Election?

Despite rumours of a September election, no confirmation has been made. Various strategic activities by the People’s Action Party hint at an upcoming poll amidst uncertain global political trends.

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On 27 May, a viral WhatsApp message circulated among many Singaporeans, indicating that Parliament would dissolve on 20 August and the polls would be held on 6 September.

Despite the virality, no public announcement from the Prime Minister’s Office or the Election Department was made to refute this claim. Since the message was shared, few media reports have covered it, and those that have labelled it “fake news.”

Take, for example, Channel News Asia, which labelled the viral WhatsApp message claiming a September 6 election date as “fake news” and posted on Facebook, “Seen a WhatsApp message claiming a Singapore General Election will be held on Sep 6? That’s fake – and more misinformation could be on the way.”

Meanwhile, The Straits Times has taken a more tentative stance in its report, acknowledging the possibility but highlighting the shrinking window given the timelines.

According to ST, the Electoral Boundaries Review Committee (EBRC) had not been convened. The EBRC reviews the boundaries of the current electoral divisions and produces a report recommending potential changes, taking into consideration changes in the number of electors due to shifts in population numbers and housing developments.

While ST points out that analysts say it is technically possible for the committee to put out its report for a September election, it seems to have the naive assumption that the work is done only when the committee is formed.

One would assume much of the deliberation on redrawing boundaries would have been made before the announcement of the formation of the committee, particularly given how the report that is released is basically deprived of any reasons as to why wards are carved out the way they are, like the removal of wards, merging them into GRCs, or wards that were previously nearly won by opposition parties, like Joo Chiat and Fengshan.

And despite their strong views on the possible dates of the election, none of the media have robustly engaged with People’s Action Party (PAP) leaders to ascertain or clarify their election plans directly. I mean, why can’t they walk straight up to Lawrence Wong and ask, “When do you intend to hold the next General Election? September?”

And for those who are not aware, under the Singapore Constitution, The President may, at any time, by Proclamation in the Gazette, dissolve Parliament if he is advised by the Prime Minister to do so, which then requires a general election at such time, within 3 months after the dissolution of Parliament. Meaning that the Prime Minister effectively decides when the election is to be held at his own discretion without question.

However, the reports from CNA and ST raise an intriguing question: Are they subtly hinting to the public that an election is imminent in September? Given that state media personnel are restricted from taking leave to prepare for elections well in advance, they are likely among the first to be informed. This preparation, just three months before the anticipated date, suggests they might already have insights into the election timing if the September date holds true.

We should also be reminded that during the COVID-19 pandemic, many of the viral messages turned out to be true, as they were created by public servants who had insider knowledge and were later prosecuted.

There are several indicators suggesting that a September election is not only feasible but likely.

Firstly, the strategic distribution of budget benefits, such as generous cash handouts scheduled for September 2024 and the GST Voucher to be distributed in August, often precedes elections as a means to garner voter goodwill.

Additionally, Prime Minister Lawrence Wong has directed that the Registers of Electors be revised before 31 July 2024—a crucial step in preparation for any impending election.

More recently, there has been an uptick in the activities carried out by the PAP MPs in their wards, with a more intense walkabout in the neighbourhood and conducting door-to-door visits. Not to mention the recent announcement that 23 neighbourhoods across Singapore will be upgraded, with over S$95 million set aside.

The public service officers have also pretty much all been assigned their official duties for the election and are ready to be deployed anytime the button is pressed for them to be mobilized.

However, recent global political developments, such as the announcement of an unexpected July election in the United Kingdom — which has been speculated to be held in November — may have implications for Singapore’s electoral strategy.

This sudden shift could potentially influence Singapore’s government to reconsider its timing, especially in light of international political trends where incumbent governments, like those recently in South Africa and India, have seen significant losses. Observers speculate that the UK Conservative Party is also poised for substantial setbacks in upcoming local polls.

These international outcomes of ruling parties losing majority might scare off the PAP and its leaders, suggesting that electorates are perhaps more volatile and less predictable in the current global political climate.

Such an environment might encourage PAP to take a more strategic approach to the timing of elections, seeking to maximize political stability and voter support.

But there is a reason why the PAP would seek a September election because it would want to replicate its past success in 2015, where it managed to nearly decimate the opposition as it faces a trying economy and a population that is growing tired of the ruling party’s hegemony over Singaporeans.

Nevertheless, at the end of the day, we have to ask ourselves why it is that Singaporeans have to ponder and guess when our political lords intend to hold the election when Singapore touts itself as a democratically run country.

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Its anyone’s guess…
Its more yes, than no.

Last edited 14 days ago by W.A.J.

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