Two MPs, both ministers, were spotted near my neighbourhood recently. The prime minister has been visiting his constituents. Was it all part of the mid-autumn festivities? Or is it the beginning of the end of Singapore's 11th parliament?
The government does not have to call elections until November 2011 since parliament did not meet until six months after the last general election in May 2006.
But here's what makes me think the government is preparing to go to the polls:
- The Jobs Credit scheme, under which the government pays part of the employers' wage bills to keep workers employed, has been extended until the middle of next year.
- The Ministry of Trade and Industry's advance estimate that the economy grew by 0.8 percent between July and September compared with the same period last year: it's the first such growth in more than a year.
- The Singapore Department of Statistics' recent Household Sector Balance Sheet 2008 report, which said that Singapore household net wealth had gone up last year despite the recession and that Singaporeans were now better off than Americans. This was in startling contrast to the department's previous report in January this year that only 39 percent of the employed households earned Singapore's average monthly household income of 7,000 Singapore dollars (about $5000). The latest report did not mention household incomes at all.
The positive spin in the latest household report, the positive advance estimate of economic growth and the positive step taken by the government to save jobs, all suggest the government is getting ready to face the voters.
I wouldn't dare forecast an election date.
The Singapore government is too smart to be second-guessed by the likes of me.
But Singapore used go to the polls either in September or in December when Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong's father was the prime minister.
Minister Mentor Lee Kuan Yew fought six general elections as prime minister — and except for the first one, in April 1968, they were all held in either September or December.
Senior Minister Goh Chok Tong, as prime minister, was the first to call a general election in August, in 1991 — and then again faced the voters in January 1997 and November 2001.
Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong was the first to call a general election in May, in 2006. Will he wait again till next May or even longer? We will see.
Here are the dates of the past Singapore general elections.
- May 6, 2006;
- November 3, 2001;
- January 2, 1997;
- August 31, 1991;
- September 3, 1988;
- December 22, 1984;
- December 23, 1980;
- December 23, 1976;
- September 2, 1972;
- April 13, 1968. (The first general election after independence in 1965.)