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GE2020: Opposition parties raise concerns regarding extension of voting hours

GE2020: Opposition parties raise concerns regarding extension of voting hours

Voters streaming into Chung Cheng High School on Jul 10, 2020. (Photo: Try Sutrisno Foo)

SINGAPORE: Opposition parties have raised concerns about the extension of voting hours on Polling Day, following a decision to move the close of polls from 8pm to 10pm.  

The Progress Singapore Party (PSP) said that the last-minute call for an extension of polling hours is “highly irregular”.

“To announce an extension just 90 minutes before polls are to close highlights the arbitrary and last minute decision making. It is obviously done with little thought about implications and consequences,” said the PSP chief Tan Cheng Bock.

He said the extension was a “direct result of bad planning and the incessant urge to rush an election during the COVID period”.

“This underscores the disregard for public health as well as our democratic processes ... Bad planning and rushing through the democratic process and undermine the legitimacy of our democracy,” the party said.

READ: GE2020: Voting hours extended to 10pm; 'small number' of polling stations continue to see long queues, says ELD

He also noted that the Returning Officer may only make changes under Section 56C of the Parliamentary Elections Act “under very limited circumstances” like riots or fires.

The Elections Department (ELD) announced shortly after 7pm in a statement, that the Returning Officer, exercising his powers under section 39(3) of the Parliamentary Elections Act, would extend polling hours for all polling stations, except for polling stations in stay-home notice designated facilities to 10pm. 

EXTENSION "HIGHLY IRREGULAR"

The Singapore Democratic Party (SDP) also said the extension was “highly irregular”.

“To the SDP's knowledge, (this) has never been done before," the party said in a media statement.

It said that some of its polling agents had to leave as they understood that polling would end at 8pm. 

"This will leave some of our polling stations unattended when the boxes are sealed and may render the results questionable,” the  party said.

Peoples Voice chief Lim Tean said he was “mystified” about the extension.

“Our tour of the polling stations showed that by 4pm there was only a trickle of voters going to the polling stations to vote,” he said.

He said that the ELD should say where the long queues were so that “the facts can be verified”.

“Special provisions may perhaps be made for those stations to be open longer provided all the voters have turned up by 8pm. But there is absolutely no grounds for a general extension of two hours to the voting,” he said.

He added that his party reserves the right to challenge the extension and any electoral results arising from this “irregular and unlawful extension”.

Singapore People’s Party secretary-general Steve Chia, on the other hand, focused on the safety of the party's polling agents.

Immediately upon learning that the extensions are for voters who are sick or on Stay-home Notice, we immediately informed all our polling agents to stay safe and to keep a distance away.

“The most important priority is for them to protect themselves and stay safe for their families,” he said, adding that the party asked them to return after voting closes at 10pm to witness the sealing of ballot boxes.

“We regret such sudden unplanned extensions but will do whatever is necessary to safeguard the integrity of the ballot box and the voting process in our contested constituencies,” he said.

The Reform Party’s chief Kenneth Jeyaretnam said that the ELD worked “unilaterally”, while the Singapore Democratic Alliance’s Desmond Lim said that his party was “very surprised” to hear of the extension, and wondered if the law allows for such an “extension decision made unilaterally”.

“The ballot boxes were left without the presence and supervision of our polling agents during this extended time and we demand for a proper justification for this action,” he said.

The People’s Action Party said it will “respect the decision made by the ELD”.

CNA has reached out to the Workers' Party for comments.

BOOKMARK THIS: Our comprehensive coverage of GE2020 and its developments

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Source: CNA/ja(ac)

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