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South Carolina Democrat aiming to unseat Lindsey Graham raises $13.9 million in quarter

WASHINGTON (Reuters) – The South Carolina Democrat challenging Republican U.S. Senator Lindsey Graham nearly doubled his fundraising this spring, his campaign said on Tuesday, in the latest sign of the mounting campaign hurdles facing Republicans in the U.S. Senate.

Jaime Harrison, a former South Carolina Democratic Party chairman, raised $13.9 million during the second quarter of 2020, vs. $7.3 million in the first quarter, which the campaign described as a state fundraising record.

Harrison faces an uphill climb in trying to defeat Graham in the Nov. 3 election. But his ability to raise large sums against the long-time Republican incumbent and ally of President Donald Trump is yet another sign that Republicans are playing defense as they seek to preserve their Senate majority.

Trump’s sagging poll numbers and Democratic animosity against his leading allies in Congress have deepened this year’s challenge for Senate Republicans, including Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell.

The Harrison campaign did not provide further details about its second-quarter fundraising.

Despite the Democrat’s success with donors, Graham still had more than twice as much financial firepower heading into the final months of the campaign.

The Republican had $13.9 million in cash on hand, vs. $6.7 million for the Democrat, as of May 20, according to the latest comparable documents available on the Federal Election Commission website.

A Graham campaign spokesman was not immediately available for comment.

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Why should S'poreans vote for them? Hear it from 4 party leaders

Dear ST reader,

Why should Singaporeans vote for them? How would they secure jobs and livelihoods for Singaporeans?

We pose five questions to the leaders of Singapore’s four largest political parties. Hear what they have to say.

Meanwhile, the Elections Department has debunked false claims that the marks made by self-inking pens on ballot papers will become invisible after several minutes.

For more updates as we count down to Polling Day, go to str.sg/GE2020

4 party leaders answer 5 questions on key election issues

Why should Singaporeans vote for their party? Hear it from the party leaders.

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Marks made by self-inking pens on ballot papers will not become invisible

The Elections Department said that it was aware of false information being circulated in messages and online posts.

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Tan Cheng Bock calls police reports against WP’s Raeesah Khan ‘gutter politics’

The PSP chief said: “When it comes to politicking of this nature, let us (take the high road), then the world will look at us and regard Singapore as a mature country.”

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Police investigating netizen who claims to have flagged WP’s Raeesah Khan’s social media posts

The netizen is being investigated for the alleged offences of harassment and posting comments on social media with deliberate intent to wound religious or racial feelings.

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Police reports made against DPM Heng for remarks on non-Chinese PM; AGC says no offence committed

The police said it consulted the Attorney-General’s Chambers, which advised that no offence was committed.

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Every working S’porean needs to be on ‘moving escalator’ of better skills and income: Tharman

The Covid-19 crisis poses special challenges as a generation of young people entering the workforce may miss their first step onto the escalator, said Mr Tharman.

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New faces, old-timers and quite a few lawyers among candidates

How many newcomers are there in this election? Find the answers to this and other key questions.

READ MORE

Singapore GE2020: Get full election coverage on our dedicated site here.

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EU splintering: Brussels must learn two critical lessons or ‘risks further decay’

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Mark Leonard said it is vital that member states “move closer together for a corona reconstruction plan” over the coming months as nationwide lockdowns are lifted. Writing for German online news site focus.de, Mr Leonard said leaders should pull together to help soften the economic blows of the epidemic.

He is co-founder and director of the European Council on Foreign Relations, the first pan-European think tank. He claimed the coronavirus crisis had shown many European citizens the globalised world including relying on the US and China is falling apart. And the second lesson for the bloc to address is the growing support to address the climate emergency.

Mr Leonard said it was high time that the EU woke up to the tide of populism on the continent.

He argued while some may have hoped the COVID-19 outbreak would have put populist sentiments to bed, recent surveys have shown the opposite.

He said: “If Europe does not want to risk further decay, it must finally move closer together for a corona reconstruction plan.

“For many years, Euroscepticism and populism have been compared to a virus that has reached epidemic proportions.”

He added: “There is no doubt that a huge reconstruction plan is needed to get European nation-states back on their feet after the crisis.

“The Franco-German initiative marks a courageous and necessary first step on the way to reviving Europe.

“However, an extensive ECFR (European Council on Foreign Relations) survey points to the danger of misjudging public opinion in connection with the current crisis and unintentionally triggering a new wave of EU scepticism.”

Voters across nine member states, which cover about half of the population of the bloc, took part in the survey.

They were asked whether they support the distribution of financial burdens among member nations.

And, Mr Leonard noted, “the results were very sobering”.

Participants living in countries which stand to benefit most from a reconstruction fund, largely supported the sharing of the financial burden.

However, voters from net contributor countries failed to back the sharing of the burden as a majority.

Even in France – which, along with Germany, has backed the European Commission plans – less than half (47 percent) of those questioned said they wanted to see the burden shared.

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In Germany, the figure was 43 percent while in Sweden it was 30 percent.

And less than a quarter (24 percent) of respondents in Denmark said the same.

Mr Leonard said the results showed how important it would be for Brussels to listen carefully to the concerns of voters in countries which are not in favour of sharing the financial burden.

He explained: “Anyone wishing to gain support for the reconstruction fund must first understand the concerns of sceptical countries: not only do they seem to fear the establishment of permanent transfer payments from rich to poor countries; there is also concern that they favour an unsustainable economic structure rather than paving the way for a new form of economy.

“In order to persuade people to support a reconstruction plan, it will be important not to argue with the terms solidarity and federalism, but with self-interest and modernisation.”

He went on to say the pandemic has shone a spotlight on the fact that the globalised world order where the EU could rely on Washington and Beijing as partners is actually “falling apart”.

This, he claimed, strengthens the case for a stronger intra-European market.

He said figures in Europe should take note of this and push for an “economically viable internal market” which “is more European than national”.

Concluding, the political scientist said another powerful lesson which the EU stands to learn from the crisis is the importance of paving the way for a greener future.

He pointed to recent data which showed climate change was one of the top public concerns among voters in European countries in 2019.

Almost three quarters (71 percent) of Austrians see it as a “serious” problem, in the Netherlands (74 percent), Denmark (83 percent).

Eighty-four percent of Swedes who took part in the Eurobarometer survey considered environmental changes “very serious” problems.

Mr Leonard said: “The ECFR survey also shows that in Denmark and Sweden, people who care about the environment are most willing to accept financial burden sharing.

“So if the arguments for the reconstruction fund focus on the future instead of the past, it should be possible to win a larger share of the population for reconstruction.

“If the European heads of state and government take these two lessons into account, they could actually develop a European impetus from this situation. If they continue to use solidarity as an argument, we run the risk of fueling a new wave of euroscepticism and reaffirming the very ideas that European citizens are suspicious of.”

Additional reporting by Monika Pallenberg.

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Matt Hancock slaps down Jonathan Ashworth after Labour chief dubs Boris Johnson ‘crass’

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Jonathan Ashworth called for Boris Johnson to apologise for the comments he made regarding care homes yesterday. The Labour MP branded the Prime Minister’s comments as crass remarks. However, Mr Hancock hit back and fiercely defended the Conservative leader in the House of Commons.    

Mr Ashworth said: “The initial guidance from the Government downplayed the risk to care homes.

“Care providers were sent conflicting guidance throughout this outbreak. Staff could not access testing until mid-April and are still not tested routinely.

“PPE supplies have been inadequate, thousands of families have lost their loved ones in care homes to this disease, care workers themselves have died on the front line.

“Can he understand why people are so insulted by the PM’s remarks when he said too many care homes didn’t really follow the procedures?

READ MORE: So just how many of us HAVE had coronavirus? Hancock admits test trend

“Can he appreciate the hurt that has led to care home providers today, for example, describing the comments as ‘clumsy and cowardly’, and can he tell us therefore which care homes didn’t follow procedures and what these procedures were that apparently were not followed and will he take this opportunity now to apologise for the PM’s crass remarks?”

Mr Hancock replied: “He also asked about care homes and throughout this crisis care homes have done amazing work.

“The Prime Minister was explaining that because asymptomatic transmission was not known about the procedures were therefore not known.

“We have constantly been learning about this virus from the start and improving procedures all the way through.

“I pay tribute to the care homes in this country that have done so much to care for the most vulnerable through this crisis.”

The Health Secretary also discussed the local lockdown situation in Leicester.

Mr Hancock said: “What we said when we took the measures just over a week ago is that we needed to see 14 days of data and so we proposed to make announcements on the next steps on the 18th July.

“Of course if further measures are needed in the meantime to tighten up then we would take them immediately, but as I said in my statement, the good news is that the data are currently moving in the right direction.”

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The UK was placed in lockdown in March to protect the NHS from being overwhelmed from the deadly coronavirus pandemic.

At the time of writing, Britain has the eighth-highest number of COVID-19 cases in the world. 

The UK has more than 285,000 cases in total at the time of writing.

The death toll in Britain is currently over 44,000.

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Nicola Sturgeon shamed: 600 Scottish schools not inspected for a decade or more

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Opposition politicians are now calling for urgent action following FOI figures which show that 604 primaries have not been inspected for more than 10 years. Data showed The Highlands Council was the local authority with the most outstanding inspections followed by Aberdeenshire Council which had 53.

In comparison, the lowest end of the scale was Inverclyde Council which had three and Clackmannanshire which had just two.

Alongside this, the data revealed that one had not been inspected for 16 years.

Iain Gray MSP, Scottish Labour’s education spokesman has called for an independent schools inspectorate, similar to OFSTED in England, to be reestablished.

The Scotland inspectorate, Her Majesty’s Inspectorate of Education, was merged in 2011 into Education Scotland, which is responsible for the running of Scotland’s education system.

 

He said: “These figures show what we have known for a long time – the school’s inspection regime is simply not fit for purpose.

“The Inspectorate needs to be de-merged from Education Scotland and given its independence back so that teachers and parents can have confidence in the standards of learning and teaching in our schools.

“This is one of the problems in our schools which has been repeatedly raised with John Swinney, but simply falls on deaf ears.”

Larry Flanagan, General Secretary of EIS, however, said it was “a mistake” to equate school inspections with the maintenance of educational standards.

He added: “In Finland, for example, widely regarded as a high performing school system, there is no inspectorate.

“Trust and investment in teacher professionalism are the hallmarks of its approach.”

Mr Flanagan stressed that Scotland “should learn from Finland’s success story.”

But figures show that in the last academic year (2018/19), Education Scotland completed 252 school inspections, an increase of over 30 percent on the previous year.

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The agency said it inspects schools each year on a proportionate basis, using a sampling approach and predetermined set criteria rather than a cyclical approach.

They stressed that it “significantly strengthened its scrutiny functions and increased the number of school inspections it carries out”.

A Scottish Government spokesman said: “In Scotland, overall responsibility for the quality of education and securing continuous improvement sits with the local authority.

“There is a three-level approach to evaluating and improving education: schools have a responsibility to evaluate their performance; local authorities have responsibility for the quality of education in their area; and the third level is scrutiny activity carried out by HM Inspectors of Education.”

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Singapore GE2020: Police investigating netizen who claims to have flagged WP's Raeesah Khan's social media posts

SINGAPORE – The police are investigating a Facebook user who claimed to have flagged social media posts made by Workers’ Party (WP) candidate Raeesah Khan.

In response to media queries on Tuesday (July 7), the police confirmed that police reports have been made against an individual using the Facebook moniker “Abdul Malik Mohammed Ghazali”. The police did not say if this is the user’s real name.

The netizen is being investigated for the alleged offences of harassment and posting comments on social media with deliberate intent to wound religious or racial feelings.

Investigations are ongoing.

In a Facebook post circulated on Sunday, the netizen claimed to be “one of the first to leak out and (make) viral screenshots” of Ms Khan’s social media accounts.

In the same post, the netizen also said in relation to Ms Khan: “Who cares about your father? SMCCI very big meh? Best for you to step down Raeesa (sic), or he’ll be next.”

Ms Khan, 26, is standing in Sengkang GRC as part of a four-man WP team. Her father, Mr Farid Khan, is president of the Singapore Malay Chamber of Commerce and Industry (SMCCI) and a Singapore presidential hopeful in 2017 .

Earlier on Sunday, the police said that two reports had been made against Ms Khan, a social enterprise founder, and that investigations are still ongoing.

The police statement said that she had allegedly commented that Singapore law enforcement authorities discriminated against citizens, and that compared with other groups, rich Chinese and white people were treated differently under the law.

Another police report was made over a separate post where in the context of a news article on the City Harvest Church ruling, Ms Khan was alleged to have commented that Singapore jailed minorities mercilessly, harassed mosque leaders but let “corrupt church leaders who stole $50 million” walk free.

She has since apologised for the posts, saying that she did not mean to cause social divisions and had made the remarks as she wanted to raise awareness about minority concerns.

At a press conference on Sunday night, shortly after news broke of the police reports, Ms Khan said: “My remarks were insensitive, and I regret making them. I feel really passionate about minority issues regardless of race, and in my passion I made improper remarks, and I have to be accountable for them. I will fully cooperate in any police investigations.”

Singapore GE2020: Get full election coverage on our dedicated site here.

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Brexit divorce bill: How much is UK paying EU in 2020? The staggering amount

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The transition period is currently underway and the UK has officially left the EU – although all is not yet settled between the two sides. Talks to negotiate a Brexit deal are ongoing despite coronavirus, and the UK and EU are still beholden to the same rules it has held throughout its 45 year plus relationship.

Having joined the ECC in 1973, the UK and EU still have plenty to untangle in the ongoing talks.

We are in the midst of an 11-month transition period, to end on December 31 this year, giving both sides some time to agree on how the EU-UK relationship will work.

The UK’s departure from the EU will no doubt leave a reasonably large hole in the EU’s finances – Brussels, of course, wants to minimise its losses, or at least put off for as long as possible the question of whether it asks richer countries to pay more into the budget or reduces spending in poorer countries.

A large chunk of the money being asked for by the European Commission was pledged by David Cameron, when he was Prime Minister, to the long-term EU budget for the period of 2014 to 2020.

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How much does the UK owe the EU?

So-called ‘divorce payments’ were first proposed as part of Theresa May’s agreement way back in 2017.

Even then, no one knew exactly how much this would be, and details were given of how it would be calculated rather than a precise figure.

Still, an estimate of a settlement of about £39billion was given – but this was based on a Brexit date of March 29, 2019.

When Brexit was delayed – repeatedly – it meant that some of that money was paid as the UK’s normal budget contributions, so less of it was part of the divorce bill.

No fresh estimate has been given for how much the UK currently owes the EU though, but the Office for Budget Responsibility estimated in late 2019 that the new figure had fallen to £32billion.

The OBR has told the BBC the total bill for 2020 alone will be £10.69billion.

According to the BBC, the OBR expects most of the entire divorce to be paid by 2022, with some relatively small payments still being made until the 2060s.

This was the payment schedule expected for the October 2019 Brexit date, so it’s currently unclear what new plans are being made a negotiated.

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Why does the UK owe the EU money?

When the UK triggered Article 50 way back in March 2017, the two sides then had to come to a “withdrawal agreement”.

This withdrawal agreement covers how the UK ends its membership; that meant agreeing on things like its financial requirements – the divorce bill – and the rights of EU citizens in the UK and a plan to deal with the Irish border.

If we leave the EU without a deal, strictly speaking the divorce bill will not be owed by the UK to the EU.

It’s not clearly set out that the UK would be obliged to pay anything if we left with no deal, but the EU could take the case to the International Court of Justice on the grounds of the UK’s repeated commitments to pay.

The UK Government has said it will not agree to follow an EU rulebook in return for unfettered trade; the EU insists there can be no trade deal unless Britain agrees to a “level playing field” and does not undercut EU regulations.

Chief Negotiator Michel Barnier has warned that it can’t be “business as usual” if no agreement is reached by the end of the year.

“If we have no agreement … we have to face the risk of a cliff edge, in particular for trade,” he said earlier this year.

For any countries the UK doesn’t have a trade deal with at the end of the transition, World Trade Organisation rules will kick in, bringing tariffs and trade barriers.

This wouldn’t just impact the UK, but also its other trading partners.

Many hope a deal will be reached by the end of the year, especially given the economic downturn caused by coronavirus, and negotiations might continue in other areas, but exactly what would be in or out still remains to be seen.

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Singapore GE2020: WP will look into Facebook comments of Raeesah Khan, but does not want to prejudice investigations

SINGAPORE – The Workers’ Party (WP) will conduct a review into the Facebook posts made by Sengkang candidate Raeesah Khan, but it does not want to prejudice ongoing police investigations, said WP chief Pritam Singh.

Asked about a call from the PAP for the WP to make its stand clear on the candidate, Mr Singh said the party would explain further at the right time.

“So we’ve made a very extensive statement during our doorstop (on Sunday). And I don’t wish to add on to that. And I think the voters of Sengkang have heard her apology,” he said.

“I also understand that there is some views out there which want her to further explain. There will be a time for this. My preference is of course to do it now, but because there’s an ongoing police investigation I cannot let those investigations be prejudiced by whatever comments I make or she makes. But certainly, I think there will be a review of this as I mentioned previously, and that will happen.”

The 26-year-old had apologised on Sunday, saying she did not mean to cause social division with her remarks, but had wanted to raise awareness about the concerns of minorities.

A day later, the PAP issued a statement asking why the WP still considered her worthy of consideration as an MP given her statements about race and religion.

“This is a serious matter, which goes to the fundamental principles on which our country has been built,” it said.

On Tuesday, the WP’s Sengkang GRC team leader, Ms He Tingru, 37, said that the WP candidates in the constituency have been working hard on the ground even after the latest developments.

“You know we have been having very deep and meaningful conversations with the residents. This matter has come up, and we’ve had very good discussions with some of the residents about this. They’ve expressed both support and concern,” she said.

“I think it’s important to go back to what Raeesah had actually said earlier, you know she’s apologised for her previous comments and now we should just leave the matter in the hands of the police.”

Apart from Ms He and Ms Raeesah, the other members of the WP team in Sengkang are economist Jamus Lim, 44, and equity research analyst Louis Chua, 33.

Singapore GE2020: Get full election coverage on our dedicated site here.

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It’s now a crime for Colorado doctors to impregnate patients with their own sperm

Doctors who artificially inseminate patients with their own sperm or that of other donors without a patient’s permission will soon be subject to felony charges and civil lawsuits.

Colorado Gov. Jared Polis signed House Bill 1014, which had bipartisan support, into law on Monday.

The bill was introduced after Grand Junction gynecologist Dr. Paul B. Jones was accused last year of using his own sperm to impregnate women over three decades.

Health care providers who use a donor without consent from a patient can be charged with a class 6 felony and face up to 18 months in prison and a fine of up to $100,000. The penalties would apply to insemination, donation of eggs or sperm, donation of embryos, in vitro fertilization and embryo transfer, and sperm injections.

Doctors can also be sued “for unprofessional conduct” under their medical licenses, and if they lose, would have to pay attorney and legal fees, as well as damages determined through the legal process or $50,000 per child.

Republican Sen. Bob Gardner of Colorado Springs, a bill sponsor, said Monday he doesn’t expect the law to be used often, but it will give those who have been victimized a way to pursue civil action.

“It’s very devastating for those who discovered this for all sorts of reasons you can imagine, not to mention the simple fact that when you have that many people who have had the DNA of one individual, they may be meeting their half brother and half sister, and the implications are just really bizarre and disturbing and life-changing for the people who have been affected,” he said.

The law will go into effect 90 days after the General Assembly’s June 15 adjournment.

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Singapore GE2020: Battle for the mind and heart of the middle-ground voter

This is shaping up to be one of the least emotive yet most intense election campaigns since the 1990s.

Least emotive, because of the absence of vitriol and emotional hammering of candidates. When personality issues emerged, they were quickly dealt with and candidates from both sides signalled they wanted to move on to focus on issues.

This happened when People’s Action Party (PAP) candidate Ivan Lim, widely criticised online, was dropped; and when the PAP leaders crossed swords with Singapore Democratic Party leader Chee Soon Juan over the latter’s charge that the Government had contemplated a 10 million population target.

The PAP released information and context that this was not true, demanded an apology that never came, and then contented itself with sharp remarks that it was “disappointed but not surprised” at Dr Chee’s behaviour, “for we knew Dr Chee has not changed, cannot change and will never change”.

Rather than focus on personalities, the campaign has dealt with issues. In part the more sober tone is due to the absence of physical rallies and their rabble-rousing effect.

Instead, what we are seeing, underneath the rhetoric, the charges levelled and the rebuttals, is a serious battle for the minds and hearts of the moderate voters in Singapore.

The Singapore electorate is often said to consist of 30 per cent staunch opposition voters and 30 per cent staunch supporters of the incumbent PAP, with a large pool of about 40 per cent of “swing voters”.

Staunch PAP supporters include many older Singaporeans who lived the country’s transformation from Third World to First; younger, well-travelled ones who appreciate the oasis of order that is Singapore; as well as new citizens who buy into the system. Many voters also support the candidate they like, so PAP MPs who have built a bond with their residents have an advantage over new candidates.

Staunch opposition supporters include those who want to see alternative voices in Parliament and those who feel unfairly treated by the Government, or who believe the PAP Government has become incompetent or self-serving, putting its own interests above that of ordinary citizens.

Then there are those who decide how to vote as every general election rolls around. This group does not buy into the PAP’s argument that the vote should go to the party with the track record, the party you want to govern Singapore. Nor does it buy into the opposition’s argument that voters should support any check and balance on the PAP.

Instead, among the swing voters are many who want a PAP government but will use their votes to vent their frustration at specific candidates or policies, or tactically to support quality opposition, and put pressure on the PAP.


People’s Action Party and Workers’ Party campaign posters in East Coast GRC. With day eight of the campaign today, Singapore is heading into the final days of a rather unusual election, with its respectful tone. Rather than focus on personalities, the campaign has dealt with issues. ST PHOTO: LIM YAOHUI

The PAP’s hardball tactics of partisan campaigning and character attacks have in the past turned off a portion of the swing voters each election. GE2020 has been notable for the relative absence of such tactics.

Instead, the party is treating voters as sensible, fair-minded adults to be appealed to, not as children to be bribed with constituency upgrading promises or wayward teenagers to be chided.

This was notable in the online Fullerton rally speech by Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong yesterday. It continues a time-honoured political tradition, although the only thing “Fullerton” about this online rally, streamed live from the PAP headquarters, was that it took place at the usual lunchtime, and the way PM Lee reminisced about past rallies in the historic square.

Yesterday was possibly PM Lee’s last Fullerton rally address. With it, he took viewers down memory lane, recalling how he first spoke there as a new candidate in 1984, and how the PAP had led the country out of the recession that hit months later.

His main message: Vote for the party with the track record that has “improved people’s lives beyond measure” and renewed its leadership to be “vigorous and in sync with your aspirations”.

He asked voters to give the PAP strong support during this critical period, amid a global economic and health crisis.

Singapore has to remain a special place with a strong government and united people. “Maintaining this high reputation is a matter of survival for us,” he stressed.

The incumbent PAP has to work doubly hard in the remaining hours to persuade voters to support the party with the track record, to emerge stronger in a post-Covid-19 world.

The opposition has to persuade voters that supporting the opposition will put pressure on the PAP to ensure that the future is better.

Appealing directly to on-the-fence voters, he said: “Do not confuse signals by voting opposition if what you really want is a PAP MP to look after your constituency and town council, and a PAP government to look after Singapore.”

He added: “Don’t be taken in by those who say that it is important just to have more choices. Look carefully at the choices they offer you, ask yourself if they can deliver, don’t be taken for a ride. Your future is at stake.”

Such comments acknowledge Singaporeans’ desire for an opposition, but appeal to them to make sure they support only candidates and parties that can deliver, but without running down specific candidates.

It isn’t just the PAP that is fighting to win over moderate voters.

The Workers’ Party (WP), the only opposition party in the last Parliament (with six seats), has moved swiftly to try to stem the loss of Chinese electoral support after its absence from a televised political debate in Mandarin. It held a hasty press conference on Sunday, where its youngest candidate Raeesah Khan, 26, standing in Sengkang GRC, apologised for insensitive past social media posts that, among other things, alleged that the police and courts favoured rich Chinese over minorities. The police are investigating her posts.

Opposition criticism of the Government’s handling of Covid-19 has also been surprisingly constrained, pointing out what many commentators have already been saying for weeks: dropping the ball on migrant workers and being slow to mandate mask-wearing in public.

Instead, this campaign has been rich in ideas, with candidates talking about their parties’ policy proposals in numerous talk shows and interviews online. The result is a rich buffet of serious content which voters can watch with full attention at home, in their own time.

Rather than debate merits of individual proposals, the PAP has used two standard lines of argument to counter them.

The first is to dismiss them as PAP-lite: suggesting they are copycats of the PAP’s policies, especially as the PAP has, since 2011, expanded its redistribution programmes, introduced universal health coverage and significantly expanded childcare and home-based care subsidies.

However, this line of argument lends itself to easy counters. As Mr Leon Perera of the WP retorted, Singaporeans should then vote in WP MPs to help make sure the PAP introduces WP ideas into its agenda.

The second line of counter is to ask the opposition how it plans to fund its generous subsidies.

The parties have ready answers. The WP suggests “tapping no more than a fifth of the approximately $15 billion per year in land sales that the Government typically collects” or “increasing the Net Investment Returns Contribution (NIRC) by up to 10 per cent”.

Up to 50 per cent of the NIRC from past reserves can now be used for government Budgets.

The Singapore Democratic Party proposes raising taxes on the rich and cutting ministerial salaries. The Progress Singapore Party wants to cut public spending and use more of the NIRC.

To appeal to the broad middle ground, the parties are careful not to come across as profligate. Spending more of the NIRC still leaves the reserves’ principal untouched.

The net result is that the larger opposition parties’ manifesto ideas are no longer dismissed as too radical or irresponsible for consideration; but considered as alternatives which can be debated. This is rather bad politicking, for it dignifies the opposition’s ideas; but good for democracy, in treating opponents seriously and giving their views due consideration.

In thus acknowledging Singaporeans’ desire for an opposition, the PAP has tried to seize the political initiative by making the Non-Constituency MP (NCMP) scheme a key part of its message: Vote PAP and you can still have opposition MPs in Parliament through this scheme, which allows up to 12 top losers into Parliament, with full voting rights on Bills.

Opposition candidates have countered that an NCMP’s role is limited. WP’s former leader Low Thia Khiang, who retires this election, famously compared NCMPs to duckweed – floating prettily on a pond, but devoid of roots. The NCMP can speak up in Parliament, but lacks constituency roots and town council responsibilities and resources.

WP’s Mr Perera has also argued that voters are better off voting in the opposition, because then they get an opposition voice in Parliament, and the PAP candidate remains as grassroots adviser to get the promised government-funded constituency projects implemented.

With day eight of the campaign today, Singapore is heading into the final days of this rather unusual election, with its respectful tone and focus on ideas.

The incumbent PAP has to work doubly hard in the remaining hours to persuade voters to support the party with the track record, to emerge stronger in a post-Covid-19 world.

The opposition has to persuade voters that supporting the opposition will put pressure on the PAP to ensure that the future is better.

Which argument will win more support? It won’t be an easy battle.

Singapore GE2020: Get full election coverage on our dedicated site here.

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