Electorate update indicates early Singapore polls

POPULARITY TEST: The elections are not due until next year, but the ruling party's new leader may want to test his standing with the people


Wed, Jan 04, 2006 - Page 4

Singapore said yesterday that its election register will be updated on or before Feb. 28, a sign that elections will likely be held as early as March, before their due date in the middle of next year.

The long-ruling People's Action Party, or PAP, is virtually certain to retain a firm grip on power.

The vote percentage it garners is seen as a measure of the popularity of its policies.

"A notification is being published in the Government Gazette today which states that the prime minister has directed the Registration Officer to revise the registers of electors and complete the revision on or before Feb. 28, 2006," a statement from the Elections Department said yesterday.

The revised registers will contain the names of all Singaporean citizens qualified to vote as of Jan. 1 this year, the statement said. The measure means an election could be held as early as March, though the exact date remains unknown.

Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong, son of Singapore's founding father and first prime minister, Lee Kuan Yew, does not have to call elections until the middle of next year.

However, PAP, which has ruled Singapore since its independence from Malaysia in 1965, is keen to introduce new faces to replace retiring veteran politicians such as former deputy prime minister Tony Tan.

The next election will be Lee Hsien Loong's first at the helm of government, after succeeding Goh Chok Tong as prime minister in August 2004.

Goh, whose Cabinet title is now senior minister Goh Chok Tong, has said he believes Lee will call elections sometime this year.