GE2020: A look at elections in countries around the world amid COVID-19

A supporter of the People's Action Party carries on his back a figurine of the late Lee Kuan Yew as he awaits the results for the general election in Singapore on 12 September, 2015. (AFP via Getty Images file photo)

SINGAPORE — Singapore will hold its General Election (GE) on 10 July amid the COVID-19 pandemic, after Parliament was dissolved on Tuesday (23 June). Nomination Day is set for the upcoming Tuesday.

Given the current circumstances, the election will be a markedly different one from past GEs: for instance, physical rallies are banned while parties must cap their groups to five during walkabouts and door-to-door campaigning.

Voters must wear masks as well as sanitise their hands and don disposable gloves before receiving a ballot paper, among other safe distancing measures.

Here are some countries that have held elections earlier during the crisis and others that are going to the polls later this year.

Mali: Early starter during pandemic

Mali began its long-delayed parliamentary election in end-March, one of the first countries to go to the polls amid the pandemic.

Originally scheduled for 2018, the election has been postponed twice because of intensifying violence by jihadist groups with links to al Qaeda and Islamic State.

Its first round of elections on 29 March was disrupted by jihadist attacks as well as the kidnapping of opposition leader Soumaila Cisse. Its second round on 19 April saw voting cancelled after jihadists threatened to attack voters.

The 147 members of its National Assembly were elected from 125 constituencies to serve five-year terms.

South Korea: COVID-19 patients voted at special booths

South Korean President Moon Jae-in's ruling party won a majority during elections in April that saw the highest turnout since 1992.

The ruling camp secured 180 seats in the 300-member, single-chamber parliament, up from 120 previously. The main conservative opposition coalition won 103 seats.

Authorities took stringent safety measures, disinfecting all 14,000 polling stations and requiring voters to wear masks, have their temperatures checked, use hand sanitisers and plastic gloves, and maintain a safe distance from others.

Some 2,800 COVID-19 patients were allowed to vote by mail or in-person – using special booths set up before the 15 April election – while over 13,000 in self-quarantine cast their ballots after polls closed.

Serbia: Political parties holding big rallies

Serbia recently headed to the polls in Europe's first post-lockdown election. The turnout among the nearly 6.6 million voters who were eligible to cast ballots for Serbia’s 250-member parliament and local offices was lower than in previous elections.

The voting — initially planned for April but postponed because of the pandemic — took place even though Serbia was still reporting dozens of new cases daily after a complete easing of its strict lockdown rules.

Mongolia: Political parties flouting lockdown rules

Mongolians elected a new parliament on Wednesday, with some 600 candidates contesting 76 seats.

In March, the landlocked country of 3 million became one of the first countries to close its borders due to the pandemic. Schools and universities remain closed until September.

The country’s two main parties have flouted social distancing measures, such as a ban on gatherings of more than 30 people, by holding massive campaign rallies as well as ignoring bans on door-to-door campaigning.

Meanwhile, some 8,000 Mongolians have remained stranded abroad by the virus.

New Zealand: No plans to move date

The country’s 19 September election date was announced in January, before the pandemic took root globally. The current Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern has repeatedly said she does not plan to move it.

In mid-May, some days before the country exited a seven-week lockdown, the country’s Electoral Commission unveiled safety measures designed to allow the election to proceed as planned.

These included queue management, physical distancing, hand sanitisers alongside ballot boxes, and protective gear for people staffing voting stations.

Advance voting and postal voting will be encouraged, especially for vulnerable groups like the elderly and those with pre-existing medical conditions.

During the election, voters will elect 120 members to the House of Representatives under New Zealand's mixed-member proportional voting system.

The country will also hold two referendums alongside the election on legalising cannabis and allowing euthanasia.

United States: Trump vs Biden

The United States is scheduled to enter its 59th quadrennial presidential election on 3 November, during which voters will select electors who will in turn vote on 14 December.

Since 1845, election day in the US has been held on the first Tuesday after the first Monday in November.

The 538 electors will either elect a new president and vice president or reelect the incumbents Donald Trump and Mike Pence. The candidate who gets 270 electoral votes or more wins, and the newly elected president and vice president are then inaugurated on 20 January.

Amid the pandemic, more US states have made it easier for people to vote by mail. A total of 46 US states now offer every eligible voter the option to mail in their ballot. 

A surge in mail-in voting is expected due to concerns over the pandemic, and experts warn the process could be marred by chaos of the type already seen in primary elections held in states during the outbreak.

President Trump kicked off his reelection campaign recently, with a much smaller crowd than expected showing at a rally in Tulsa, Oklahoma.

At over 2.5 million cases of COVID-19 and over 128,000 deaths, the US has the highest coronavirus toll globally.

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