Singapore must hold elections by early 2021, and before the virus hit the Asian city state late in January, the government had been expected to call one within a few months.
Friday’s report by a panel reviewing electoral boundaries is a closely watched event because polling day in the previous two general elections followed within three months of its release.
“The general election is imminent,” said Eugene Tan, a professor of law at Singapore Management University (SMU). “April is when the election is likely to be, before the pandemic worsens and while the situation is still well under control.”
In another sign of growing preparations, Singapore’s elections department said updated registers of electors will be available for the public to inspect until March 27.
The review panel’s report comes the day Singapore adopted new measures to rein in the spread of the virus, such as cancelling or deferring events with more than 250 expected participants.
The handling of the virus has become the defining test for a new generation of leaders as Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong, the son of Singapore’s founding father Lee Kuan Yew, prepares to step down after the elections.
Finance minister Heng Swee Keat, who is expected to succeed Lee, budgeted last month for the biggest deficit in years with billions earmarked to cushion the virus’ impact on firms and households.
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With 187 infections, the Asian travel hub has flagged the chance of a recession this year as it cut its growth forecasts, reflecting expectations for an economic blow from the outbreak.
In a report to parliament, the government accepted the recommendations of the boundary review panel and said it would adopt them for the next general elections.
The changes included establishing 31 electoral divisions, up from 29, and the addition of four seats in parliament, for a total of 93.
Lee has held power since 2004. His People’s Action Party (PAP) has dominated politics over the five decades since the republic’s independence, winning all elections with significant majorities.