In Singapore, Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong gives early voting in the corona crisis. He hopes that this will give him a last strong mandate.
“The truth is that the PAP will most likely be given the mandate to govern again (Friday),” says 44-year-old economist and opposition candidate Jamus Lim. “But we want to prevent a blank check. That is what this choice is about. ”
Lim thus spoke at the only TV debate of the nine-day election campaign, which has been a bitter reality in the city-state of Singapore for all opposition parties since independence in 1965: The People’s Action Party (PAP) won at least 90 percent of all seats in all elections. Her share of votes fell steadily lower, but most recently it was back at 69.9 percent.
The ruling party not only benefits greatly from the majority vote, but can also hold elections at short notice and change constituency cuts. So far, the PAP has managed with only three prime ministers.
Reigning 68-year-old Lee Hsien Loong is the son of Singapore’s conservative founder Lee Kuan Yew. Lee Jr. started the election in the middle of the corona crisis because his government now needed a strong mandate. Lee’s term of office would have lasted until spring 2021: he had announced that he would step down from office before he turned 70.
Because larger events are not allowed due to the pandemic, the short election campaign took place almost exclusively online. The opposition had no chance of organizing itself effectively in such a short time. She is also struggling with a law that is said to help prevent the spread of fake news. It forces website operators to put these warnings on them if the government thinks they are wrong.
Singapore’s authoritarian PAP largely controls the state, the economy, the media and the judiciary, and has already ruined some opposition politicians with libel processes. But at some point, the PAP, which has brought great prosperity to the city-state, worried itself about the credibility of the system it dominated. Since then, the government itself has sent some losers from the opposition to parliament.
In the current election, ten parties are challenging the PAP. It is only the second time that the opposition has candidates for all 93 seats. So far, only the Workers’ Party (WP), for which Lim mentioned at the beginning, has six members. The opposition is unanimous in rejecting the government’s announced increase in VAT.
The first-time Singapore Progress Party (PSP) was founded by a PAP renegade last year. With Lee Hsien Yang, he won Premier Lee’s younger brother as a member. He accuses his brother of betraying his father’s ideals and making politics for the elites. But he didn’t want to run himself. “I don’t think Singapore needs another lee,” he said.
Singapore has so far come through the corona crisis without any problems, at least with regard to its own six million citizens. But the virus drew attention to the precarious living and working conditions of the many guest workers. Around 90 percent of the 45,000 people infected in Singapore to date are foreign migrant workers.
Prime Minister Lee declared the pandemic to be Singapore’s greatest challenge since independence. The trade and financial metropolis faces its greatest economic crisis. Many should therefore choose stable conditions instead of an inexperienced opposition.
“I am determined to hand over Singapore to the next team intact and in good working order,” promised Premier Lee. By this he meant the fourth generation of PAP leaders under his chosen successor Heng Swee Keat. While he now has to prove himself in the election, Lee’s words are interpreted as a hint that he may be able to stay in office longer if the crisis persists.