March 15, 2020 / 7:27 AM / 13 days ago

Singapore opposition parties urge government against elections amid coronavirus

SINGAPORE (Reuters) - Singapore’s opposition parties are calling on the government to not hold a general election during the coronavirus outbreak, with one party saying such a move would be “irresponsible”.

FILE PHOTO: Tourists sit at a table at a largely empty Chinatown district as tourism takes a decline due to the coronavirus outbreak in Singapore February 21, 2020. REUTERS/Edgar Su/File Photo

Singapore, which must hold a national ballot by early 2021, revised its electoral boundaries on Friday, in a move typically seen as a precursor to calling a vote imminently.

The government had two choices for timing the election - either hope the virus situation will stabilize before the end of its term or to call for a vote early, Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong said on Saturday.

Lee’s People’s Action Party has ruled Singapore since independence over half a century ago.

Opposition parties said the government should wait for the virus outbreak to end before calling elections in the city-state where voting is compulsory.

Singapore has confirmed 212 cases of the virus.

More than 2.6 million voters could be exposed to the virus at polling stations and at large rallies during campaigns, said Tan Cheng Bock, leader of the newly launched Progress Singapore Party (PSP).

“There is this potential mass exposure to this virus. So holding a general election at this time should not be considered,” said Tan, a prominent opposition figure and a former PAP lawmaker.

The Singapore Democratic Party said on Friday an election during the outbreak would “take away valuable resources needed to combat the virus outbreak and jeopardize the public’s health and well-being”.

“The SDP calls on the PAP to refrain from such an irresponsible act,” it said.

Neither party currently holds seats in parliament.

On Friday, Singapore authorities issued new virus-fighting measures for people to reduce close contact, including cancelling or deferring ticketed events with more than 250 participants.

While the government has not yet set a date, polling day in the previous two general elections followed within three months of the release of the electoral boundaries report .

Other countries have been postponing their elections due to the pandemic.

Local and mayoral elections, previously scheduled for May, in England have been postponed for a year due to the coronavirus outbreak. Georgia elections officials have delayed the U.S. state’s presidential primary set for March 24 until May 19.

Reporting by Aradhana Aravindan in Singapore; Editing by Michael Perry

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