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Polling Day on Sept 11
MARK Friday, Sept 11 on your calendar. That is the day when up to 2.46 million eligible Singaporean voters will go to the polls at a general election (GE) that will probably see all 89 available seats being contested.
After months of speculation, the date for the GE was finally confirmed on Tuesday at about 4pm when President Tony Tan Keng Yam issued the Writ of Election, an hour after news broke that he dissolved Singapore's 12th Parliament on the advice of Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong.
A total of 2,460,977 citizens are eligible to mark that all-important "X" on their polling cards, up from 2,311,582 at the last GE back in May 2011. Just as in previous GEs, Polling Day will be a public holiday.
The 89 wards are split into 16 group representation constituencies (GRCs) and 13 single-member constituencies (SMCs), as declared by the Electoral Boundaries Review Committee when it released its report on July 24. All interested candidates must go to one of nine nomination centres on Sept 1 to file their papers.
The election deposit has been set at S$14,500 per candidate, lower than the S$16,000 in 2011. This deposit is based on 8 per cent of the total allowances payable to a member of parliament (MP) in the preceding calendar year and rounded to the nearest S$500.
As things stand, all 89 seats are expected to witness a contest between the ruling People's Action Party (PAP) and the opposition. As many as nine opposition parties are planning to field candidates at the GE.
At the 2011 GE, every constituency except one, Tanjong Pagar, was contested, with the PAP winning 81 out of 87 seats albeit securing its lowest-ever vote share of 60.1 per cent.
Mr Lee, who is also the PAP's secretary-general, had said at his annual National Day Rally on Sunday that the coming GE would be critical for Singapore's long-term future.
On Tuesday, shortly after the writ was issued, he took to social media to once again seek the support of voters. He wrote on his Facebook page: "I called this general election to seek your mandate to take Singapore beyond SG50, into its next half century. You will be deciding who will govern Singapore for the next five years."
He reiterated a key point he made at Sunday's rally when he stressed that Singaporeans would also be choosing the team that will work with them for the next 15 to 20 years and set the direction for the country for the next 50 years.
"What we have achieved together in Singapore is special. Here, many races live in peace, and many from humble homes make good. We will surely meet challenges ahead, but whatever the world throws at us, as one people, we will overcome," said Mr Lee, Singapore's third prime minister since 2004.
"If you are proud of what we have achieved together and support what we want to do for our future, please support me and my team. We have to do it with you, in order to do it for you, and for Singapore. Together, we can keep Singapore special for many years to come," he added.
Singapore has been in election season for the last two weeks. After the National Day celebrations, the PAP began formally introducting its candidates. In a break from before, the party announced where they would be standing ahead of Nomination Day.
The PAP has already revealed its line-up for 12 GRCs and 11 SMCs, and it is expected to unveil the candidates for the remaining six constituencies over the next few days.
Fourteen PAP MPs have already announced their retirement, with 11 new faces - including former chief of defence force Ng Chee Meng and former assistant commissioner of police Melvin Yong - introduced so far.
The opposition Workers' Party (WP), meanwhile, intends to field a total of 28 candidates in five GRCs and five SMCs, and it is likely to stick to its usual practice of introducing the full slate of candidates before Nomination Day without revealing where all of them will be standing.
WP chairman Sylvia Lim said on Aug 16, however, that all its seven elected MPs - five in Aljunied GRC and one each in Hougang and Punggol East - would stay on and defend their seats.
The other opposition parties, based on what they have publicly said, are expected to contest up to 11 seats each. The Singapore People's Party (SPP) and the Democratic Progressive Party will field a joint team in Bishan-Toa Payoh GRC under the SPP banner.
While most of the constituencies will see a straight fight between the PAP and one opposition party, there could be a few multi-cornered battles.
One could take place in Potong Pasir, where the incumbent MP Sitoh Yih Pin of the PAP will probably square off against the SPP's Lina Chiam and independent candidate Tan Lam Siong.
There could also be a three-way stand-off in MacPherson where the PAP's Tin Pei Ling might go up against the Workers' Party and the National Solidarity Party.
The Returning Officer for this GE is the current chief executive of the Energy Market Authority Ng Wai Choong, a veteran civil servant who took over the job from former People's Association chief executive director Yam Ah Mee in April 2013.
Once Mr Ng officially declares a poll to be called after the Nomination Day proceedings are over, there will be nine days of campaigning across the island.
The mandatory Cooling-Off Day, which came into effect at the 2011 GE, is on Sept 10, the eve of Polling Day. This is a 24-hour period when all political parties are prohibited by law from campaigning in order to allow voters to reflect on the issues raised.