#GE2020 The Issues, Please? (Day 07): Two days to get the campaign back on substantive track; the ruling party campaigns for a mandate

The Nine Days is a socialservice.sg podcast covering the 2020 general election in Singapore (#GE2020), through daily five-minute news summaries, conversations with young voters, and interviews with academics and experts.

Two days to get the campaign back on substantive track

With just two days of campaigning to go, there is growing frustration that GE2020 has gone off track. We are distracted by the personality politics. The appeals to xenophobia and populism. The disproportionate focus on the candidates and even divisive politicking.

And it feels like a missed opportunity. We are still in the middle of a pandemic, and we know the economic fallout and the unemployment will be painful. COVID-19 also exposed gaps in our social safety net, and a general election provides the perfect platform to discuss our next steps.

Not all party manifestoes are thorough or well-written, but some are. Of the main opposition parties, the Singapore Democratic Party and the Workers’ Party have taken this work most seriously. You do not have to agree with any or all of their ideas. However, at the very least, they deserve a public discussion.

Perhaps, a discussion which continues even beyond GE2020.

Former MP of the People’s Action Party Inderjit Singh wrote on Facebook, and I quote: “I hope in the last two days of campaigning, all parties will focus on how they plan to tackle the many issues Singapore will face.

Rather than practising destructive politics that seems to be dividing the nation, let’s focus on constructive contestation of ideas so that Singaporeans can judge what structure of parliament will help Singapore best tackle the issues we will face soon – not to just save jobs in the short term but also to create a future economy and society that will give a bright future to our future generations of Singaporeans as we enter into the post-COVID-19 new normal”. End-quote.

Mr. Singh was not the only one. On Facebook too, veteran journalist Bertha Henson suggested a few issues and ways to get this election back on track. Singaporeans deserve a discussion on the proposed minimum wage or the existing Progressive Wage Model. On unemployment insurance or benefits and plans to reduce socio-economic inequality. And on HDB lease decay and changes to taxes.

Whether we will actually get this campaign back on substantive track, I’m not so sure. At the very least, we can hope.

The ruling party campaigns for a mandate

The ruling PAP has continued to campaign for a strong mandate. At the online Fullerton rally, the prime minister emphasised that the coronavirus pandemic is the crisis of a generation. He also sought to assure voters that he wanted to hand over Singapore to the next team, quote, “intact and in good working order”. End-quote.

He pledged to work alongside senior ministers Teo Chee Hean and Tharman Shanmugaratnam to ensure leadership renewal.

Yesterday, on July 5th, PAP’s Heng Swee Keat painted a scenario of a severely weakened government. He said, quote: “What would Singaporeans think, if they wake up next Saturday, to find that the PAP has lost four GRCs and two SMCs? What would investors and other countries think?” End-quote.

In response, WP’s Yee Jenn Jong said that Singapore did not collapse in 2011, after the ruling party lost Aljunied GRC and ministers. Besides WP, the other opposition parties said they were aware of the COVID-19 crisis, and that campaigning on bread-and-butter issues remains important for Singaporeans.

That’s all for today. Be sure to check out socialservice.sg for more GE2020 content. You can also search for and subscribe to “socialservice.sg” on Spotify, Apple Podcasts, or anywhere you get your podcasts.

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