Singapore heads for snap elections despite coronavirus pandemic

Singapore Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong has dissolved parliament for snap elections on July 10, months before they are due and even as the city-state battles the coronavirus pandemic.

The dissolution of parliament late on Tuesday came just four days after the city-state lifted most coronavirus restrictions, and appeared to be an attempt to take advantage of a quiet window before a possible worsening of the pandemic’s impact.

On Wednesday morning, the prime minister’s estranged brother, Lee Hsien Yang, announced that he would join an opposition party to contest the elections, but had not yet decided if he would stand as a candidate.

Prime Minister Lee said the country must prepare for ups and downs, noting there had been a resurgence in cases in some countries that had reopened.

He also said Singapore had not felt the full brunt of the economic fallout yet, so there were likely to be more business closures and higher unemployment.

“An election now when things are relatively stable will clear the decks and give the new government a fresh full five-year mandate. It can then focus on this national agenda and the difficult decisions it will have to make and to carry.”

Lee’s People’s Action Party (PAP), which has held power uninterrupted since 1959, is widely expected to keep its overwhelming majority in parliament, where it currently holds 83 of the 89 seats.