Singaporeans vote in long lines wearing masks
SINGAPORE CITY (SINGAPORE) – Singaporeans wearing masks and gloves cast their ballots, in queues on Friday. COVID-19 pandemic has pushed the city-state’s economy towards its worst-ever recession.
People’s Action Party (PAP), which is in power since independence in 1965, is expected to take Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong to another smooth and probably final victory.
Election officials enforced safe distancing rules, covered in face shields and took voters’ temperatures as they entered polling booths. The morning session was mainly reserved for the elderly so that overcrowding could be prevented.
While officials were hopeful that voters would not take more than five minutes to cast their ballot, lines formed initially outside some polling stations, and people said they waited up to an hour.
Joseph Lim, 41, a technology professional, said, “Looking at the conditions, I am considering if it is worth risking my health just to exercise my voting rights.”
The Elections Department said the queues were partly due to additional safety measures and had reduced around mid-morning.
Lee, the son of Lee Kuan Yew, Singapore’s founding leader, has held the premiership since 2004. Aged 68, he has already talked about his intention to step aside in the coming years. He was also seeking a fresh mandate to deal with the virus outbreak and its economic fallout.
The poll results will be closely watched as even small shifts in the PAP’s popularity can lead to major changes in policy.
While concerns around immigration and jobs increased in 2011, the PAP polled a record-low 60% of the vote. After that, it tightened international hiring rules to address voters’ concerns.
These concerns are once again to the fore, as they are struggling to bounce from recession.
Sample counts are expected soon after polling closes at 8 pm. (1200 GMT) with final results due in the early hours of Saturday.
A record 11 parties are contesting.
Singapore is not the first country in Asia to hold elections during the pandemic, with South Korea holding parliamentary elections in April. Social distancing rules restricted campaigning, and there were no party rallies allowed.
But, there are just 2.65 million voters in Singapore, and voters have to go through process such as self-scan identity cards, sanitise their hands and pull on disposable gloves before receiving a ballot paper.
With one of the lowest COVID-19 fatality rates in the world, SIngapore initially received widespread appreciation for its efforts. However, mass outbreaks in migrant worker dormitories reversed that early success, forcing the government to keep schools and businesses closed for longer period.
Suhaila Shaikh, 27, “This election has been great because more people are interested and getting involved in the discussions, especially on social media.”
(Photos syndicated via Reuters)
This story has been edited by BH staff and is published from a syndicated field.