According to state media Straits Times, about 30,000 civil servants have been appointed as election officials and training is underway. The state media then hinted that the election may come as soon as 2019, as the previous election in 2015 was held 11 months after the training:
“For the 2015 General Election, public servants were called up for training about 11 months before the polls. The timeframe was about 18 months for the 2006 General Election and about 31 months for the 2011 polls.”
There are however good reasons for the ruling party PAP to call for early elections. A GST tax increase in 2021 would be uncomfortably near a 2020 election, and deal significant damage to the ruling party supporter base.
The considerable success of 70% majority in GE2015 for the PAP hinged upon Lee Kuan Yew’s influence. Singaporeans voted sentimentally as a tribute to the first Prime Minister, disregarding unsound policies, legalised corruptions and poorer quality of life.
Back in 2015, Singaporeans discarded rationality but this time it may not be the same. The ruling party PAP now has a high chance of losing governance as this presents itself as Singaporeans’ only alternative to stopping a 2% GST increase. Furthermore, there isn’t anyone in the current ruling party that Singaporeans feel endeared to.
Despite spending millions marketing himself on social media and public relation events, Lee Hsien Loong has more a villain image in the eyes of Singaporeans. His father’s last will to demolish 38 Oxley Road was denied through Lee Hsien Loong’s abuse of premiership powers, and his siblings now openly criticises him. The “dishonourable son” – as Lee Wei Ling called his Prime Minister brother – preserved the family house and dismantled his family links, and even go as far as prosecuting his nephew Li Shengwu and sending his brother on exile after accusing him of falsifying the last will of Lee Kuan Yew.
Most Singaporeans have called out for Lee Hsien Loong to respect Lee Kuan Yew’s will, but the dictator Prime Minister wanted the house to serve as a memorial and symbol of influence for his own legacy. This ironically turned out to be another election issue, as displacing Lee Hsien Loong out of power is the only alternative of honouring Lee Kuan Yew’s last will.
From within the PAP, there is also increasing dissenting voices who became disillusioned with Lee Hsien Loong’s leadership. Some openly expressed their dissatisfaction, like Teo Ser Luck who gave up his ministerial position and former Prime Minister Goh Chok Tong who publicly commented that Lee Hsien Loong’s succession planning is too late. Dr Tan Cheng Bock, a former PAP MP, openly contested against his ruling party-appointed candidate in the 2011, and several former comrades of Lee Kuan Yew like Kishore Mahbubani condemned the foreign policies of Lee Hsien Loong.
Like Malaysia’s Najib Razak, Lee Hsien Loong keeps his men obedient by stuffing money into their pockets. Each Minister is paid at least S$1.1 million and the entire cabinet is the most expensive in the world at S$53 million a year. As his nephew Li Shengwu succinctly put in, the ministers’ and MPs’ generous paycheck is dependent on them not criticising the Prime Minister. Chances of any “change from within” is hence non-existent.