Government disallows polls over election period but allows sweeping statements in favour of the PAP at all times

The ingredients that create trust are not secret or control. Rather, it is simply transparency and consistency.  People relate well to consistency because they know where the boundaries lie. People also appreciate transparency because there will be much less suspicion that they are being lied to. No one likes to be taken for a ride and no one likes to live in uncertainty.

I am sure that the government wants to create a country where people support the ruling party. In that light, I am confused as to why the government acts in a way that creates so much (perhaps unwittingly) murkiness?

The Parliamentary Elections Act (Chapter 218) prohibits the publishing of data at specific periods after the writ of election is issued.

78C.—(1)  No person shall publish or permit or cause to be published the results of any election survey during the period beginning with the day the writ of election is issued for an election and ending with the close of all polling stations on polling day at the election.

78D.—(1)  No person shall publish or permit or cause to be published on polling day before the close of all polling stations on polling day […]

The law is therefore not against the collection of data but rather the publication of it at specific time frames. Indeed, both the Straits Times and the Middle Ground have been issued “stern warnings” by the police for flouting this requirement.

Presumably, the law is in place so as to prevent people from being unduly influenced over over who to vote for. If this is indeed the intention behind the legislation, shouldn’t all mention of any political opinion – regardless when it is made –  that could unduly influence voters be curbed?

Earlier this year, Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong said it was neither wise nor workable for the People’s Action Party (PAP) Government to “purposely” let the opposition grow bigger when most of the population supports the PAP. He further likened opposition parties to “performers” when he said that the greater the safety net there is for opposition parties the “more dangerous the stunts the performer will do.” In other words, if there is no risk of punishment, they would “push further.”

This is the most powerful man in the country publicly stating his preferences and implying threat of punishment. Arguably, is this not a greater influence on voters than any data that could have been published over election time?

PM Lee has declared over national media that most people support the PAP. Does this not create undue bias in the PAP’s favour?

What harm is the Parliamentary Elections Act trying to curb? If it is undue influence, then shouldn’t it also apply to statements such as these made by PM Lee?

What about media writing that Heng will be the next Prime Minister? Is that not akin to imply how people will vote in the next General Election?

People are influenced throughout the years in between elections. Not just at election time.

Arguably, isn’t this one rule for the PAP and one rule for everyone else? Is this fair? is this consistent? Is this transparent? Does this encourage trust?

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November 2018
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