June 23 (UPI) -- Singapore is to hold general elections on July 10 amid the global coronavirus pandemic, Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong said Tuesday in a televised address.
Lee, the eldest son of former Prime Minister Lee Kuan Yew, could be planning the election to prepare for a potential handover of power to Deputy Prime Minister Heng Swee Keat for the next five-year term, the Sydney Morning Herald reported.
"An election now -- when things are relatively stable -- will clear the decks, and give the new government a fresh five-year mandate," Lee said.
"The alternative is to wait out the COVID-19 pandemic. But we have no assurance that the pandemic will be over before this government's term must end next April. And that is why I have decided to hold the general election now."
The number of coronavirus cases in Singapore is more than 42,000. The city-state's initial response to the first wave of COVID-19 was hailed a success, until the infection spread among foreign workers, mostly from China, India and Bangladesh, living in crowded dormitories.
Ahead of the elections, Singaporean President Halimah Yacob dissolved parliament, and nomination day is scheduled for next Tuesday. Candidates for the 93 elected seats will then have at least nine days to campaign, the Straits Times reported.
"The government that you elect will have critical decisions to make... These decisions will impact your lives and livelihoods, and shape Singapore for many years to come, far beyond the five-year term of the next government," Lee said Tuesday.
Lee's People's Action Party has ruled Singapore since 1959. In 2015, the party won nearly 70 percent of votes, according to CNBC.
The Economist Intelligence Unit said the party could retain a majority due to "risk aversion among the populace...a weak opposition means that it will retain a comfortable grip on power."
The party has upheld stiff censorship laws, according to analyst Jerrine Tan. An activist was jailed for unfavorably comparing Singapore's judiciary system to Malaysia's, and an appeal to repeal Section 377A, which criminalizes sex between men, has been dismissed during the pandemic, according to Tan.