Singapore GE2020: Investors confident in Singapore due to quality of government and strong support it has from people, says PM Lee

SINGAPORE – The Singapore Economic Development Board (EDB) secured $13 billion in new investments in only the first three months of this year – and that money will generate several thousand jobs over the next few years.

It is an extraordinary thing because in an ordinary year, the EDB would attract about $10 billion for the whole year.

So, how was EDB able to do this during a pandemic and a recession?

Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong said it is because “Singapore enjoys a strong reputation internationally, and investors have confidence in us”.

In a video message posted on social media platforms on Wednesday (July 1), PM Lee said: “Investors know the quality of our government – they have met our ministers and worked with our public service. They also know our government has strong popular support.”

PM Lee added that investors are also confident that the Government can get Singaporeans to “back policies that will grow the economy, attract talent and investment, and eventually create jobs for Singaporeans”.

“These have been the fundamentals of our economic success, and the reason why MNCs (multinational corporations ) have kept faith with us,” he said.

He added that in a crisis, it is even more critical for Singapore to reinforce these fundamentals to attract more investments and jobs to Singapore.

It also important not to lose sight of the long-term mission of making Singapore better, even as the nation deals with the immediate need to get through the Covid-19 crisis.

PM Lee said the recession will be over but the world after the coronavirus pandemic will look very different. Singapore’s external environment will be less stable, the world economy will be less integrated, and not only would the world have changed, it will be a “changing one”.

Singapore, Mr Lee said, will have to be resilient and adaptable, “to earn our living in this new world”.

That is why this election will be a critical one, he said.

Singaporeans will be choosing the leadership team they want to get them through the Covid-19 pandemic crisis and beyond, he added.

The next elected government has to save jobs and businesses, and persevere with long-term plans to build a better future for Singaporeans, added PM Lee, who is secretary-general of the ruling People’s Action Party.

Two things are critical for Singapore to come through the Covid-19 crisis, he said.

“First, the best possible leadership for Singapore,” he said. “Second, a solidly united population, that gives the leaders they have chosen full support.”

On leadership, Mr Lee said the PAP has worked hard to put together the best team for Singaporeans. This team is anchored by experienced ministers and MPs who have seen the country through past crises, and therefore know “what to expect, what to do, what pitfalls and traps to avoid”.

The party has also added to its ranks new faces who come from all walks of life, he said.

“Indeed, our new candidates this time are among the most grounded, the most organic, the most relatable we have had in years… They reflect our evolving society, and they each have their individual perspectives and passions,” Mr Lee said.

What they have in common are “core values and convictions, and the courage to do right by Singapore, like every generation of PAP leaders before them,” he added.

“The PAP is determined to provide Singapore not only a strong leadership team for the next five years, but a team that has depth, and continually renews itself for the future,” Mr Lee said.

This is why younger ministers were put in charge of the task force tackling the Covid-19 crisis, he said.

“This is not a dry run, nor even a live firing exercise. This is deadly serious real-life crisis management, in an unprecedented global crisis,” Mr Lee said, adding that he is happy that the younger ministers have proved themselves up to the task. “This is what it means to be a responsible steward of Singapore, and of our future.”

But a capable leadership can only succeed if it wins the strong support of the people, Mr Lee said.

He added that Singaporeans must feel that the Government is building up the country not just for the current generation, but as a “sustained effort spanning generations”.

“The world may be uncertain, and many dangers lurk which can derail our plans,” Mr Lee said. “But if our government and people are united, trusting each other and working together with a clear direction, we can overcome any challenge that comes our way, and make steady progress, decade by decade, towards our long-term vision.”

On the Covid-19 pandemic, Mr Lee said Singapore is still in the thick of the fight, and must sustain its collective effort to keep the virus from spreading.

On Singapore’s long-term plans, Mr Lee said the pandemic may force the country to “take down some sails, divert around the worst weather” and change its course. For instance, the mega Changi Airport Terminal 5 has been put on hold for at least two years.

But its ultimate destination remains the same, he said. Its plans include building more and better pre-schools, ensuring that healthcare is affordable for the elderly, and preparing for climate change.

“These are ambitious plans, spanning decades with the crisis, we will have to revise some of them,” PM Lee said, adding that the Government is nevertheless resolved to realise these plans. “Because we are determined to always be exceptional, always distinguishing ourselves in an ever-changing world.”

He noted that Singapore is where it is today because generations of Singaporeans have trusted the PAP and worked with it to build the country.

“Your support has been the PAP’s greatest strength. And the PAP has never let you down,” he said. “Now, we must face the crisis of a generation together, and carve out our place in the world anew. I ask you to once again give me and my PAP team your mandate.”

Singapore GE2020: Get full election coverage on our dedicated site here.

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Theresa May slams appointment of David Frost to senior security role

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The fuming ex-prime minister said David Frost had “no proven expertise” to take on a job so pivotal in keeping the country safe. Mr Frost replaces chief civil servant Sir Mark Sedwill, ousted amid claims mandarins are being driven out in a radical Whitehall overhaul. Normally restrained Mrs May was unable to hide her anger during a Commons clash with Cabinet minister Michael Gove yesterday. 

She said: “I served on the National Security Council for nine years. During that time I listened to the expert independent advice from national security advisers.”

She pointed out Mr Gove had talked of promoting people “with proven expertise” and demanded: “Why then is the new national security adviser a political appointee with no proven expertise in national security?” 

Sir Mark is also stepping down as Cabinet Secretary and head of the Civil Service after reports of clashes with Dominic Cummings. 

Mr Gove insisted Mr Frost, who served in the Foreign Office, worked in the private sector and later took over Brexit talks, was an expert. 

He added: “We have had previous national security advisers, all excellent, not all necessarily people steeped in the security world, some of whom were distinguished diplomats in their own right. 

“David Frost is a distinguished diplomat and it is appropriate the prime minister of the day should choose an adviser appropriate to the needs of the hour.” 

Tory MP Peter Bone said if the Government was going down the US route of making political appointments to key adviser roles, it should allow “confirmation hearings” to give the Commons a say. 

But ex-Cabinet minister Andrew Mitchell said: “It’s sensible to have the national security adviser separate from the head of the Civil Service.” 

Ex-ambassador to the US Lord Kerr said Mr Frost had resilience and stamina but was in a difficult position.

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Singapore GE2020: Special voting hour for Singaporeans on stay-home notice at home and unwell voters

SINGAPORE – Singaporeans serving stay-home notices (SHN) will be able to leave their homes to vote at their assigned polling stations on Polling Day, but can only do so during a one-hour slot.

In announcing the voting arrangements for the July 10 polls – which is happening amidst the Covid-19 pandemic – the Elections Department (ELD) said that a special voting hour between 7pm and 8pm will be set aside for certain groups of voters. They include those on medical certificate for acute respiratory infection, and those who are detected with a temperature of 37.5 deg C and higher at polling stations on Polling Day.

The arrangements would minimise their contact with others, while still allowing them to exercise their right to vote, the ELD said on Wednesday (July 01).

Covid-19 patients and those who are on quarantine orders, however, will not be allowed to vote; to reduce the risk of community transmission. There are about 350 voters in these two groups as of Tuesday (June 30).

The ELD had consulted the Ministry of Health on the voting arrangements, and permission has been granted for those on 14-day SHN at home and on MC for acute respiratory infection to leave their homes to vote during the special voting hour. As of Tuesday, there are about 360 voters serving their SHN at home.

“They should disregard, and not go to vote at the recommended time-band indicated on their poll cards,” said the ELD, adding that they will be turned away if they show up during regular voting hours and be asked to return later.

These voters will have to abide by strict rules, including travelling to their assigned polling station directly and returning home immediately after voting.

They may walk or use their private vehicle, but should not take public transport. Those who require designated transport can book a taxi from the list of dedicated booking hotlines provided in their SHN.

In addition, those under SHN must call the SHN Helpline (6812-5555) before their departure, to inform the authorities of their intention to leave home to vote.

During normal voting hours from 8am to 7pm, temperature checks will be done. Those found to be running a fever, with a body temperature of 37.5 deg C and higher will not be allowed to enter, and will be asked to return later.

During the special voting hour between 7pm and 8pm, there will be no temperature screening “since voters with fever are allowed to vote during this special voting hour”, the ELD said. However, polling equipment, including the self-inking pens and contact surfaces, will be sanitised after each voter.

There will also be a smaller team of election officials manning the polling station. These officials will don full personal protective equipment.

Candidates and polling agents are allowed to observe during the allocated hour, but will not be required to wear the PPE “as they will not come into close contacts with voters”, said the ELD.

Voters who are well are advised to stick to their recommended voting time-band, the ELD said.However, they will still be allowed to vote if they turn up during the special voting hour, as the law allows for voting from 8am to 8pm.

Polls will close at 8pm sharp, after which the ballot boxes will be sealed and delivered to their respective counting centres.

Those who are unable to vote because they are unwell can apply for their names to be restored to the Registers of Electors after the election, without any penalty.

For Covid-19 patients and those under quarantine orders or SHN, ELD has their records and their names will be automatically restored to the registers after the election without penalty.

Singapore GE2020: Get full election coverage on our dedicated site here.

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Singapore GE2020: WP's East Coast team expects 'a good fight' against PAP team led by Heng Swee Keat

SINGAPORE – The Workers’ Party (WP) team contesting East Coast GRC expects a good fight against its People’s Action Party (PAP) rivals led by Deputy Prime Minister Heng Swee Keat, calling his inclusion in the PAP line-up a pleasant surprise.

Mr Kenneth Foo, who is part of the WP’s East Coast team, told reporters on Wednesday (July 1): “We were pleasantly surprised that Mr Heng actually made the move from Tampines GRC to East Coast GRC… He has been on national television, everyone knows he is the DPM, and we think that it will be a good fight.”

But the WP team will stay focused on its plan to work with and reach out to more residents in the area, said Mr Foo, 43, who ran in Nee Soon GRC in 2015, where his team lost to a PAP team led by Law and Home Affairs Minister K. Shanmugam.

He said: “For the past five years, we have been ploughing the ground. We have worked with and (tried to) understand the residents, set up new programmes to help the residents.”

He added: “Although we are a new team here, the work has been consistently done.”

This marks the fourth time the WP is fielding a team in East Coast GRC. At the 2015 GE, it lost to a PAP team anchored by then Manpower Minister Lim Swee Say, with 39.3 per cent of the votes against PAP’s 60.7 per cent.

Mr Foo and his four WP teammates are all running in the constituency for the first time. His team members are Mr Dylan Ng, 44, who works in finance; Mr Terence Tan, 49, a lawyer; Mr Shariff Kassim, 54, a former researcher; and Ms Nicole Seah, 33, an associate director in a multinational marketing firm.

They go up against a PAP team comprising Mr Heng, 59, Senior Minister of State for Defence and Foreign Affairs Maliki Osman, 54; three-term backbencher Jessica Tan, 54; one-term Fengshan MP Cheryl Chan, 44, whose single seat is now part of the GRC; and new face Tan Kiat How, 43, the former Infocomm Media Development Authority chief executive.

The opposition team, along with WP chief Pritam Singh, were speaking to reporters at a market at 58 New Upper Changi Road. They had earlier gone on a walkabout at the Block 85 Market and Food Centre in Bedok.

Mr Singh had said in an earlier interview, after nomination proceedings on Tuesday, that he has full confidence in the team.

Reiterating his point on Wednesday, Mr Singh said: “We see (the addition of Mr Heng) as a strong challenge, but it also says something about the PAP’s assessment of the Workers’ Party team in East Coast. I think they see the slate as a very strong one, and they know they will have to fight hard for every vote, as is what the PAP always does in every election.

“I think the East Coast team and their group of volunteers have been constantly working the ground to the best of their ability. And I think they will put up a good fight.”

Mr Tan of the WP East Coast GRC team said some issues that residents there have shared with him include concerns about the economy amid the Covid-19 pandemic, retrenchments, and business rental costs.

He said: “I think that once the government is formed, I do hope that they will consider retrenchment benefits and cash assistance while people are looking for jobs and struggling to stay on their feet.”

PAP’s Ms Chan, who was at the Block 85 Market and Food Centre in Bedok shortly before the WP team turned up, told reporters: “I think every fight has been a tough fight. East Coast has always been a hotly contested ward, so it will be no different from the past.”

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Hickenlooper wins Democratic primary for key U.S. Senate seat in Colorado

WASHINGTON (Reuters) – Former Colorado Governor John Hickenlooper shrugged off a series of campaign stumbles to win the state’s Democratic U.S. Senate nomination on Tuesday, beating a progressive challenger in a race vital to the party’s hopes of regaining Senate control in November.

Hickenlooper’s victory sets up a high-profile Nov. 3 showdown with conservative Republican U.S. Senator Cory Gardner, considered one of the country’s most vulnerable incumbents and a top target for Democrats.

With more than three-quarters of precincts reporting, Hickenlooper led by nearly 20 percentage points over Andrew Romanoff, a former Colorado House speaker who had touted progressive priorities such as Medicare for All that were opposed by the more moderate Hickenlooper.

After his win, Hickenlooper made it clear in a video address to supporters that he would tie Gardner, who has been closely aligned with Republican President Donald Trump, directly to what he said were Trump’s failed policies.

“I’ve never lost an election in this state and I don’t intend to lose this one,” Hickenlooper said.

Colorado was one of three states, along with Utah and Oklahoma, to hold nominating contests on Tuesday. Colorado and Utah primarily vote by mail, minimizing the problems with in-person voting that marred other elections during the coronavirus outbreak.

Hickenlooper, recruited to run by national Democrats after his failed presidential campaign last year, had been expected to coast to victory in Colorado but he was beset down the stretch by ethical violations and campaign gaffes, raising some doubts.

He acknowledged he misspoke in late May when he said during a discussion of the “Black Lives Matter” movement that every life matters – a phrase criticized for dismissing racism against Black people. He also apologized after a six-year-old quip surfaced in which he compared a politician’s schedule to working on a slave ship.

Hickenlooper was fined $2,750 by the Colorado Independent Ethics Commission on June 12 for violating state ethics laws by accepting free travel when he was governor. He initially defied a subpoena from the panel, testifying only after he was found in contempt.

Republicans said Hickenlooper’s late stumbles showed he would be vulnerable against Gardner.

“If watching him fall apart under pressure these last few weeks is any indication, ‘hot mess’ Hickenlooper is in for a very bumpy ride,” said Joanna Rodriguez, a spokeswoman for the National Republican Senatorial Committee.

Democrats also learned the winner on Tuesday in the race for the U.S. Senate nomination in Kentucky, where the results were delayed a week by the counting of mailed ballots. Establishment-backed Amy McGrath held off a late surge by Black state lawmaker Charles Booker for the right to challenge Senate Republican leader Mitch McConnell.

In Colorado, U.S. Representative Scott Tipton, who had been endorsed by Trump, was upset in a Republican primary by gun rights activist Lauren Boebert. She runs a gun-themed restaurant and has spoken favorably about the pro-Trump conspiracy theory QAnon, which says “deep-state” traitors are plotting against the president.

Republicans were choosing challengers to run against U.S. Representatives Kendra Horn of Oklahoma and Ben McAdams of Utah, two endangered Democrats who represent districts that Trump carried in 2016.

In Oklahoma, the winner will be determined in an Aug. 25 runoff as no candidate managed 50% of the vote. In Utah, former National Football League player Burgess Owens won the Republican primary to take on McAdams.

A ballot measure in Oklahoma to expand Medicaid, the government healthcare program for the poor and disabled, appeared to narrowly win despite the Republican governor’s arguments the state cannot afford it. With all precincts reporting, the expansion led by about 1 percentage point.

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Colorado statehouse incumbents lead challengers in Jeffco, Denver in early returns

Sitting state lawmakers in the Denver area are leading their primary challengers in early results Tuesday night.

In the House District 22 race for the seat representing south Jefferson County, incumbent Rep. Colin Larson of Littleton had 56% of the vote compared to former Rep. Justin Everett’s 44% in the Republican primary just after polls closed at 7 p.m.

The race has become a contentious one as part of a larger battle within the GOP over what extent candidates should toe the party line — particularly on social issues. House District 22 is one of the most expensive statehouse races on the primary ballot, with nearly $359,000 in outside money spent, some of it on attack ads.

In the House District 6 race, three Democrats are vying for the seat currently held by Steven Woodrow of Denver. Woodrow was appointed by a committee in February to replace Chris Hansen, who stepped down to fill Sen. Lois Court’s seat. Woodrow had 45.7%, Steven Paletz 30.5% and Dan Himelspach 23.8% in early results. This was another expensive race, with Democrats spending $366,000 — more than 50% of it their own money, according to Follow the Money CO.

In Hansen’s race to retain the Senate District 31 seat, he was leading with 55.7% of the vote to Maria Orms’ 44.3%.

Some races in Weld County have been as contentious as the Jefferson County race, with outside groups spending tens of thousands of dollars to back candidates in the solidly Republican districts. For example, in the House District 48 race — a race that some Republicans say, like Larson’s, could play a role in challenges to House Minority Leader Patrick Neville’s leadership — $314,000 in outside money was spent. Tonya Van Beber had 56.8% votes and Grady Nouis 43.2% in early returns.

Early results in other contested primaries in the Denver metro area:

Senate District 23
Democrats: Sally Boccella 54.5%, Galina Nicoll 45.5%
Republicans: Barbara Kirkmeyer 57.6%, Rupert Parchment 42.4%

House District 30
Republicans: Kerrie Gutierrez 51.9%, Cynthia M. Sarmiento 48.1%

House District 38
Democrats: David Ortiz 66.2%, Candice Ferguson 33.8%

House District 40
Democrats: John Ronquillo 50.9%, Naquetta Ricks 49.1%

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John Hickenlooper wins Colorado primary for key U.S. Senate seat

U.S. Senate candidate John Hickenlooper overcame a rocky month to defeat Andrew Romanoff in a Democratic primary Tuesday night, setting the stage for a November faceoff with Sen. Cory Gardner.

As of 7:35 p.m., Hickenlooper had 427,175 votes, or 60% of the total. Romanoff had accumulated 286,784 votes, 40%.

Hickenlooper has been the front-runner since he entered the race in August, following an unsuccessful presidential run. He dominated the fundraising contest, pulled in endorsements from top Democrats across the country, and consistently led in the polls during his 10-month primary campaign.

Tuesday’s victory is a win for the Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee and the Democratic Party’s establishment, which convinced a reluctant Hickenlooper to run for the Senate seat, believing him to a be a safe bet to beat Gardner.

But Hickenlooper enters the four-month general election campaign bruised by a brutal June, which began with him defying a subpoena. He was then held in contempt by the Independent Ethics Commission, found in violation of ethics laws, and faced a constant stream of headlines about racial gaffes dating back years.

Romanoff, a former Colorado House speaker and Mental Health Colorado president, was the favorite of progressives and grassroots activists due to his support for the Green New Deal climate plan and Medicare for All.

Hickenlooper begins the general election campaign with an edge over Gardner, a freshman senator from Yuma, due to the state’s recent Democratic tilt and the unpopularity of President Donald Trump here. On Monday, Trump reiterated his support for Gardner, whom he rallied with in Colorado Springs earlier this year.

“Senator Cory Gardner from Colorado is a GREAT Senator who always fights for the people of his state. He protects your (2nd Amendment), loves our Vets and Military, and cares deeply about our BEAUTIFUL public lands,” Trump tweeted. “Cory has my Complete and Total Endorsement!”

Voter turnout in the Democratic primary race Tuesday broke a state record for nonpresidential primaries. Theories for why include the coronavirus pandemic, the intense political atmosphere, and recent voter registration increases.

About 20 Democrats ran for U.S. Senate in the 2020 race, but many bowed out after Hickenlooper entered in August. Eight remained until the spring, when only the moderate Hickenlooper and the progressive Romanoff made their way onto the ballot. An eleventh-hour court challenge to add other candidates who blamed the coronavirus pandemic for signature-gathering difficulties was rejected.

The head-to-head bout between Hickenlooper and Romanoff started quietly, with Hickenlooper the presumptive leader, then tightened throughout June as Hickenlooper stumbled over ethics travails and racial gaffes. Still, the scant polling in the race showed Hickenlooper likely leading up to Election Day.

It was also in the final month that the race turned costly. Television ads worth more than $10 million saturated the airwaves, most of them either attacking Hickenlooper or defending him, and most of them funded by partisan groups outside Colorado. Hickenlooper kept his ads positive, and his allies criticized Romanoff for releasing an attack ad in the middle of the month.

The two candidates prioritized a similar trio of issues — health care, climate, and the economy — but laid out differing plans for dealing with them. Hickenlooper often cited his past record as governor and Denver’s mayor, while Romanoff more often focused on aspirational and ambitious plans for the future.

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Singapore GE2020: Tactical surprises signal keen contests as parties vie for votes

One would have thought an election campaign held in the midst of Covid-19 would be calmer. The run-up to GE2020 so far has been anything but that.

The major parties had kept their cards close to their chest, leaving candidate introductions till after Parliament was dissolved and the Writ of Election issued.

Restrictions on mass campaigns have made social media a key battleground in what some see as an Internet election. One of its first casualties was People’s Action Party (PAP) candidate Ivan Lim, who withdrew his candidacy last Saturday, following a concerted online campaign against him over his alleged past behaviour.

Since then, several other candidates, from both the PAP and the opposition, have come under criticism for their past comments and actions.

In a departure from the past few general elections, the PAP did not publicly confirm its line-ups in constituencies where it expects a tough fight – till it was time to file nomination papers yesterday.

Many voters take national issues into account at the ballot box, and this time round, the pandemic as well as concerns over jobs and the handling of the economy will remain on top of voters’ minds.

But representing neighbourhoods matters as well – explaining why the PAP strengthened certain line-ups and kept its cards close to its chest to prevent any late switchovers from its opponents.

It kept its key masterstrokes till the very end: In East Coast GRC, Deputy Prime Minister Heng Swee Keat helms the PAP team against a team from the Workers’ Party (WP) which has – as a party – been targeting the GRC since GE2006.

In West Coast GRC, Communications and Information Minister S. Iswaran is joined by Social and Family Development Minister Desmond Lee as they face a challenge from former PAP stalwart Tan Cheng Bock, who was MP for Ayer Rajah from 1980 to 2006 and is adept at electoral campaigning.

As Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong noted in a post-nomination press conference at PAP headquarters: “These are tactical deployments which we do have to keep to ourselves until we judge the moment is right.”

The PAP was not the only party to do so.

Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong addressing voters with his Ang Mo Kio GRC team – (from left) Mr Darryl David, Ms Ng Ling Ling, Ms Nadia Ahmad Samdin and Mr Gan Thiam Poh – at the Deyi Secondary School nomination centre. ST PHOTO: DESMOND FOO

The WP, traditionally the largest opposition player, did the same with the 21 candidates it fielded in four GRCs and two single-member constituencies (SMCs), announcing only its Aljunied GRC and Hougang SMC line-ups before yesterday.

The Singapore Democratic Party (SDP), which fielded 11 candidates in two GRCs and three SMCs, similarly kept its late switches a secret – moving chairman Paul Tambyah to Bukit Panjang single-seat, as well as more recognisable members Benjamin Pwee and Tan Jee Say to Marsiling-Yew Tee GRC and Holland-Bukit Timah GRC respectively.

Dr Tan’s Progress Singapore Party (PSP) was registered last year but is the opposition party that is fielding the largest number of candidates this election – 24 – in four GRCs and five SMCs.

It also announced where it is contesting in advance, although questions were raised over whether Mr Lee Hsien Yang would eventually be fielded. He wasn’t.

The stakes are high – for both the ruling party and the opposition parties.

Yes, during a crisis there can be a flight to safety, PM Lee noted.

But the PAP is aware that this is not the happiest of times, he added.

“People are feeling the pain and the uncertainty because of the crisis, some acutely. The opposition is making the most of that,” he said.

“They’re well organised and prepared and will not roll over or go away. The PAP will have to fight for every vote and win every heart.”

WP chief Pritam Singh made a similar point to reporters in the party’s Hougang stronghold yesterday, saying: “The WP is always up against an opponent which is much more well resourced, and which always fights hard in every election. Obviously I want our candidates to do well, and to fight equally hard.”

Several other opposition leaders have said the crisis could see votes swing in favour of the PAP.

Mr Singh had, in launching his party’s manifesto on Sunday, also spoke of the risk of a “wipeout” of an elected opposition presence in Parliament.

Others have therefore sought to argue on the need for checks and balances, and one call making the rounds – on social media – is “32 seats to save Singapore”, referring to the number of opposition MPs needed to deny the government a two-thirds majority, which is required to amend the Constitution. It is also a figure that could alarm voters in the middle.

For its part, the PAP is keen to drive home the point that there will be a guaranteed minimum of 12 opposition MPs through the Non-Constituency MP scheme – with full voting rights, including on motions of confidence.

PM Lee stressed yesterday: “Whatever happens… there’s no possibility of the opposition being shut out from Parliament.”

Expect this to be an argument reiterated – as well as countered – over the coming days, with the possibility of further tactical surprises.

On the one hand, a strong government has enabled Singapore to respond swiftly to Covid-19 and marshal close to $100 billion over four Budgets to manage the healthcare response and save jobs.

On the other, more alternative voices and checks will help strengthen Singapore’s resilience and response to future crises like the present.

This will be the first election without physical rallies. But expect the messages to be driven home with vigour – whether on nightly TV programmes starting with party political broadcasts tomorrow and constituency political broadcasts over five days starting from Friday, or over online rallies by parties making their pitch to voters.

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Singapore GE2020: Set up just a year ago, PSP fields biggest opposition slate

The Progress Singapore Party (PSP) emerged on Nomination Day as one of the most prominent opposition parties here – fielding the most candidates among any opposition party and having its A-team in West Coast prompt the People’s Action Party to reinforce its own slate.

Despite being set up just a year ago, the party is contesting nine constituencies, or 24 of the 93 seats up for grabs this time. It has also not been shy about its ambitions.

Asked about its large slate of candidates at a press conference last Friday, assistant secretary-general Leong Mun Wai said: “Dr Tan (Cheng Bock) always mentioned that he wanted to mentor the next generation of politicians for Singapore… He said one day, PSP will become the government, so we have to work hard towards that.”

The party has also repeatedly urged voters to deny the PAP a two-thirds majority in Parliament in the general election on July 10, taking a line firmer than that of the Workers’ Party, which says denying the PAP a super majority is a medium-term goal.

The PAP’s decision to move Minister for Social and Family Development Desmond Lee from Jurong GRC was also a sign of the seriousness with which the PAP considers the threat of PSP.

Mr Lee, 43, will join Minister for Communications and Information S. Iwaran, 58, in West Coast GRC to lead a PAP team against what has been dubbed the PSP’s A-team, helmed by Dr Tan himself.

Dr Tan, 80, the PSP secretary-general, was the PAP MP for Ayer Rajah from 1980 to 2006 before the ward was merged with the five-member constituency.

When asked at the Nan Hua High School nomination centre yesterday if he felt Mr Lee’s move was due to the perceived threat posed by the PSP, Dr Tan said: “I’m not going to question why they did that.

“But if they say I (am) somebody quite good, quite strong, so they are trying to put all their heavyweights to come to West Coast, well, that’s good.”

The PSP had also drawn some attention heading into Nomination Day as it dangled the possibility of Mr Lee Hsien Yang, the estranged brother of Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong, contesting the election. The 62-year-old was ultimately not fielded.

Political observers told The Straits Times that the battle for West Coast will be key for the PSP as Dr Tan stands a chance of winning.

The PAP’s move to bring in Mr Desmond Lee only raises the stakes.

Political analyst Loke Hoe Yeong said the move is a certain sign that the ruling party sees Dr Tan as a formidable candidate, though he was unsure about the extent of the veteran’s influence.

“While Tan Cheng Bock can depend on a strong showing for him in his old Ayer Rajah ward, it is less clear how enthusiastically voters from the rest of West Coast GRC will respond,” Mr Loke said.

Former PAP MP Inderjit Singh similarly said the outcome in West Coast could determine the future of the PSP.

“The PSP’s best chance is to win West Coast but I know the PAP is also ready to go all out to win. We can expect PM Lee spending time campaigning (there).”

“In other areas the PSP is contesting, they may be able to erode the PAP’s majority but they will be uphill battles because the PAP has the incumbency advantage and the PSP teams are generally novices,” he added.

Mr Singh said he believes Dr Tan wants the PSP to become a serious alternative to the PAP in the future.

While the 2011 presidential election candidate is still expected to be the main pull, the fact that the PSP has been able to attract a mix of professionals, entrepreneurs and former military men helps project an image that it is not just a one-man party, he added.

Associate Professor Chong Ja Ian from the National University of Singapore’s political science department, said the PSP is different from other new parties as it appears to be better resourced in terms of personnel and finances, and has individuals with experience engaging in grassroots, campaigning, and parliamentary work.

“If they have the ability to contest multiple seats, I do not see why they would want or need to hold back. Doing so can also establish the PSP as a serious political party that may have staying power beyond one election cycle,” he said.

But Mr Singh stressed that the future of the PSP will depend heavily on how it performs in this election. “If the PSP fails to secure any seats in Parliament, I am not sure if Tan Cheng Bock can keep everyone together. If the PSP wins some seats, I think the PSP can grow into a serious contender in the future and may attract more good people to join them,” he said.

  • Additional reporting by Fabian Koh and Lim Minzhang

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Ex-fighter pilot McGrath to take on Republican McConnell after Kentucky primary win

(Reuters) – Former fighter pilot Amy McGrath said Tuesday she was ready to take on Senate Republican Majority Leader Mitch McConnell after edging out a Black progressive to clinch the Democratic nomination for the seat.

McGrath, 45, held off a late surge from fellow Democrat Charles Booker, a state legislator, who gained on her late in the campaign as protests spread across the United States over police violence against Black people.

According to Kentucky state officials, McGrath was leading Booker with 45.3% to 42.8% of the vote with 118 of 120 counties reporting results. Multiple news organizations projected her as the winner.

The primary took place on June 23, but mailed ballots were accepted through Saturday, delaying the final results.

McConnell, 78, the most powerful Republican in Congress and a staunch supporter of President Donald Trump, is seeking a seventh six-year term.

“Last November, Kentuckians didn’t hesitate to replace an incompetent and unpopular incumbent. This November, we’re going to do it again,” McGrath wrote on Twitter, referring to Democratic Governor Andy Beshear’s 2019 defeat of Republican Matt Bevin.

McGrath won the backing of the Democratic Party’s establishment early in her campaign, including an endorsement from Senate Democratic Leader Chuck Schumer, and raised a massive $41 million in campaign funds.

Emphasizing her military experience, McGrath stressed in campaign ads that she was the “only candidate who can win” against McConnell, who has represented Kentucky in the Senate for over three decades.

McGrath follows in the mold of a handful of freshmen Democratic women with experience in national security fields who helped flip Republican House of Representatives seats in 2018.

She spent 20 years in the Marines, flying 89 combat missions.

McGrath faces an uphill battle in taking on McConnell, said Nathan Gonzales, editor of Inside Elections, which provides nonpartisan analysis of campaigns.

“McGrath was a long shot before the competitive primary and is a long shot now that it’s over,” Gonzalez said, noting that Beshear’s victory came in a three-way race in which a Libertarian Party candidate, John Hicks, also won a substantial number of votes.

Kentucky is a conservative state that voted for Trump by 30 percentage points in 2016.

Republicans’ majority of 53 to 47 seats in the U.S. Senate is looking increasingly vulnerable in the Nov. 3 election, according to political analysts.

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