Singapore became the first country to successfully conduct a general election during the ongoing Coronavirus pandemic. In many ways, it was an unprecedented election, with bans on physical rallies leading to candidates' reliance on social media and online ads to reach the country's population.
However, despite the strict restrictions in place, there was no lack of enthusiasm among voters as over 96 percent of eligible voters cast their ballots on Friday, July 10. While many expected the turnout to be lower due to the pandemic, it was higher than the 2015 General Elections, which had 93.56 percent turnout.
There was, however, a small hiccup on the election day as a shortage of disposable gloves led to longer queues. Election Department Singapore (ELD) extended the polling time by two hours to 10 PM — the first time in the country's history.
While the extension irked the opposition, a Singaporean also alleged that a polling agent who assisted her mother instructed her on whom to vote. Some voters also alleged that self-inking pens, which were used to cast votes on the ballot papers, were not stamping properly. But ELD dismissed those allegations.
"The ELD is aware that there is false information circulating online and on instant messaging platforms that the self-inking pens provided by ELD for GE2020 do not stamp properly, and that will render many votes invalid," it said in a statement, adding that it was not true. On the subject of polling agent telling who to vote, the ELD said it was investigating the agent.
Opposition Not Happy With Extension
However, the extension of polling time did not go down well with the opposition parties. Progress Singapore Party (PSP) chief, Dr. Tan Cheng Bock, called it "highly irregular" and that it "compromised the integrity of the election process".
"This is a direct result of bad planning and incessant urge to rush an election during the COVID-19 period. This underscores the disregard for public health, as well as our democratic processes," said Dr. Tan, also a former ruling People's Action Party MP. He added that it was done with little thought about the implications and consequences.
Other opposition parties including the Singapore Democratic Party, People's Power Party and Peoples Voice Party expressed concerns as well. PV chief Lim Tean called the extension "outrageous" and said that his party could challenge the decision.
PAP candidates and voters, however, had no problems with the extension. Some voters were happy as they did not run out of time because of the long queues. The ELD issued a statement, saying it was done according to section 39(3) of the Parliamentary Elections Act. "This extension in hours will allow enough time for all voters to cast their votes," it said.