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Will there be a GE in S'pore in September? Possible, but time is running out

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  • The formation of the Electoral Boundaries Review Committee is a critical step that has yet to be taken, making a September election less likely.
  • Analysts are divided, with some suggesting that PM Lawrence Wong might seek an early mandate, while others believe a later date is more feasible.
  • External factors such as global conflicts and economic conditions, as well as the ruling party's readiness, will significantly influence the timing of the next General Election.

As Singapore's political landscape evolves with the recent handover of leadership from Senior Minister Lee Hsien Loong to Prime Minister Lawrence Wong, speculation about an early General Election (GE) has intensified. The possibility of a September election has been a hot topic, but analysts caution that the window for such an event is narrowing.

The first critical step towards a General Election is the formation of the Electoral Boundaries Review Committee (EBRC). As of June 3, the EBRC had not been convened, according to the Elections Department (ELD). This committee is essential as it reviews and sets the electoral boundaries, a process that typically signals the approach of an election. Without this step, the likelihood of a September election diminishes significantly.

Political analysts have been closely monitoring the situation. The timeline of the leadership handover has fueled predictions of a possible September election, especially since PM Wong would have the platform of the National Day Rally in August to lay out his vision and rally the people. This timing would provide a strategic advantage, allowing the new Prime Minister to capitalize on the momentum from one of the year's major political speeches.

However, the logistical challenges of organizing an election in September are considerable. Schools, which serve as nomination and polling centers, have their holiday from August 31 to September 8. This period is crucial as it avoids the busy exam season, making it a convenient window for the election. Despite this, the absence of the EBRC's formation remains a significant hurdle.

NUS Professor Tan suggests that PM Wong and his fourth-generation team might want to secure their mandate as soon as possible. "In short, the team has already been around. It is not on the runway; it is already flying, with sufficient tailwinds," he noted. This sentiment underscores the urgency felt by some within the ruling party to solidify their leadership through a fresh electoral mandate.

Conversely, SMU's Professor Tan believes that while it is possible to convene the committee and hold an election in September, it is unlikely. He points out that external factors, such as global conflicts and economic conditions, could influence the decision. "I would be surprised if a General Election is held this year. Unless the external environment deteriorates rapidly, a General Election is more likely after Budget 2025," he stated.

The decision on when to call an election also hinges on the ruling People's Action Party's (PAP) readiness. Factors such as the public mood, the handling of hot-button issues like cost of living and housing affordability, and the party's overall preparedness play crucial roles. The PAP must ensure that it presents the best possible slate of candidates and addresses key voter concerns effectively.

Political observer Inderjit Singh highlighted the significance of securing an electoral mandate soon. "I think the significance of this announcement is not so much of giving Mr. Wong a longer runway, but more of letting him and the 4G team seek their mandate at the coming GE," he said. This perspective suggests that the ruling party might prefer an earlier election to capitalize on current favorable conditions rather than waiting for potential uncertainties.

While a September General Election in Singapore remains a possibility, the narrowing window and the absence of key preparatory steps make it increasingly unlikely. Analysts suggest that a later date, possibly after the 2025 Budget, might be more feasible. The coming months will be crucial in determining the exact timing of the next General Election, as the ruling party navigates both internal and external challenges.

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