Voting is underway in the Singapore general election, under the cloud of the coronavirus pandemic and its economic fallout.
The small city-state is one of the few countries to have held a vote during the pandemic so far.
Strict security measures are in place, with voters wearing gloves and masks and having voting time slots.
Singapore has been one of the most affected countries in the Asia-Pacific region, with more than 45,000 cases.
Since large-scale rallies and events are considered a high risk during the pandemic, only a few countries have held national elections in recent months.
South Korea voted in April while Serbia went to the polls in late June. In both countries, voters returned the government to power.
The ruling party should return
Singapore has been led by the same party since independence – the People’s Action Party (PAP) – and it is widely expected to retain power.
A PAP victory would bring current Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong to a new term.
The son of the country’s founding father and longtime leader Lee Kuan Yew, Mr. Lee has been in office since 2004 – but said the next term will be his last.
The government’s main candidate is the Workers’ Party, which says the decision to hold the vote during the pandemic was intended to undermine its campaign efforts.
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As the overall result is little doubt, the elections in Singapore are generally monitored, even for small changes in the performance of the PAP.
The main problems perceived by voters this time are the government’s management of the pandemic and the impending economic recession.
Singapore was first praised for controlling the virus until clusters of its migrant population dramatically increased the number of infections.
In terms of cases per capita, Singapore is now among the most affected countries in the world, although the mortality rate is low and almost all cases come from the community of foreign workers living in dormitories.
After weeks of tight lockdowns, the measures have been gradually eased since June and there has been only a slight increase in infections among the local population.
The social distancing rules remain in place and the wearing of a face mask is compulsory in public.
For the electoral process, this means that the 2.65 million voters must disinfect their hands and wear disposable gloves before receiving their ballot and voting.
People have been given two-hour slots where they are recommended to vote to avoid overcrowding.
Mobile voting teams also bring ballot boxes to citizens who have recently returned from abroad and are under quarantine in hotels.