- Title: File footage of Singapore ahead of July general election
- Date: 1st July 2020
- Summary: SINGAPOREANS SINGING PATRIOTIC SONG
- Embargoed: 15th July 2020 12:43
- Keywords: ASEAN Goh Chok Tong Lee Hsien Loong Lee Kuan Yew People's Action Party Singapore campaign general elections government politics vote
- Location: SINGAPORE / TANJUNG PINANG, BINTAN, INDONESIA/ PUTRAJAYA, MALAYSIA/ INTERNET
- City: SINGAPORE / TANJUNG PINANG, BINTAN, INDONESIA/ PUTRAJAYA, MALAYSIA/ INTERNET
- Country: Singapore
- Topics: Government/Politics
- Reuters ID: LVA00DCL97M13
- Aspect Ratio: 16:9
- Story Text: Singapore will hold general elections in July after its prime minister opted to go ahead with a vote that opposition parties and rights groups have criticized as opportunistic and unsafe because of the coronavirus pandemic.
Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong's People's Action Party (PAP), which has won every election since Singapore's independence in 1965 and has never seen its vote share drop below 60%, is expected to win comfortably.
The election is seen as a litmus test for Singapore's new generation of leaders, with Lee, a scion of the city-state's founding family, planning to step down in the coming years.
The PAP, co-founded by the Prime Minister's father, the late Lee Kuan Yew, has ruled Singapore since 1959.
When Singapore separated from the Malaysian Federation on the morning of August 9, 1965, and had statehood thrust upon it, Lee set out with his government to create a viable nation out of a polyglot collection of migrants, no hinterland, and no resources.
Singapore has since transformed itself from a British tropical outpost to an affluent, global city in just over a generation, setting the example for developing economies from China to Dubai.
English was retained as Singapore's working language as a means of keeping the peace between the island's Chinese majority and Malay and Indian minorities.
The making of a "clean and green" Singapore to be one of Asia's most liveable and corruption-free countries was a focus from very early on.
Nevertheless, Lee Kuan Yew, a Cambridge-educated lawyer and a towering figure in post-colonial Asia, had little tolerance for opposition views, despite the facade of a Westminster-style democracy that gave every adult Singaporean the vote.
While the ruling PAP has propelled the city-state into a gleaming financial hub, it has also been criticized for heavy-handed government with little tolerance of dissent.
Under Lee - a huge fan of late former British Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher - political opposition and independent media were not allowed to flourish in the same way as the economy.
Singapore placed 158 out of 180 countries in the latest World Press Freedom Index.
His stern approach included caning for many offences and the death penalty for murder and drug trafficking. Lawsuits against political opponents and media organisations were a Lee hallmark.
Despite attaining record annual GDP growth of 14.7% since the country's independence in 2010, the ruling party's vote share in the 2011 general elections declined due to unhappiness over then high housing prices, the cost of living and immigration issues.
Since then, the government has introduced curbs on foreign workers, measures to cool a red-hot property market and improved subsidised health-care cover for the elderly.
Lee's death in March 2015, less than five months before the city-state's 50th anniversary of independence, prompted an unprecedented show of grief among its then population of 5.4 million people. An election was also held that year and vote share swung in the ruling party's favour with a 69.9% majority vote, a 9.7% improvement from 2011 with some political observers attributing the positive outcome to an "LKY (Lee Kuan Yew) effect" - evoking a sense of gratitude and sympathy that helped translate into votes for the party that the elder Lee helped to establish.
In November the same year, Singapore hosted a historic meeting between Taiwanese President Ma Ying-jeou and Chinese President Xi Jinping. During the two-day visit, Xi also met with Singapore's Prime Minister Lee for his first state visit to Singapore as President.
Lee Hsien Loong took ill while delivering his 2016 National Day Rally Speech, feeling unsteady at one point due to prolonged standing, heat and dehydration. He left the podium and returned to a standing ovation from the crowd. The Prime Minister's office later said his heart was fine and he did not have stroke.
Witnessed by the state leaders of both Singapore and Malaysia, a historic bilateral agreement to build a high-speed rail line and have trains running by end-2026 was signed in Putrajaya, Malaysia on Dec. 13, 2016. Billed as a "game changer" for both countries, it aims to cut travelling time by land between Singapore to Kuala Lumpur to 90 minutes compared to more than fours hours by car.
A dispute over the demolition of the late Lee's house at 38 Oxley Road spilled into public domain after his younger siblings published a public statement on Facebook in 2017, alleging their elder brother, the prime minister, of "wanting to preserve the house to inherit his father's (Lee Kuan Yew) credibility."
Although the late-Lee Kuan Yew had publicly expressed his desire to have his home demolished after his demise, the house still stands at its original site and the younger Lees have accused their brother of power abuse - by allowing the government to decide on the fate of the structure.
Leaders from the 10-member Association of Southeast Nations (ASEAN) kicked off their 32nd Summit at the Shangri-La Hotel in Singapore with Lee warning against trade wars and security threats in his opening speech.
A first meeting between Singapore Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong and North Korean leader Kim Jong Un took place at the Istana at in 2018, days before a historic DPRK-U.S. summit where Kim would meet U.S. President Donald Trump.
In early March 2020, Singapore was regarded as a role model for its battle against coronavirus, but by late March, community cases began to grow two-fold daily. In early April 2020, Singapore's government announced a self-styled lockdown called a "circuit breaker" aimed at curbing the spread of the coronavirus. All non-essential services were shut down, although some partially resumed in early June. By May, Singapore had the highest number of confirmed COVID-19 in Southeast Asia, over 30,000, with the vast majority of infections among migrant workers in cramped dormitory accommodations.
By June 23, Lee said the virus situation in the city-state had "stabilised" and he was satisfied an election could be held safely.
The upcoming general election will be held on July 10. Lee has said it was not clear when the pandemic would end and his government needed a fresh mandate to steer Singapore through the social and economic challenges it posed.
(Production: Travis Teo, Joseph Campbell)
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