The Singapore Democratic Party (SDP) issued a statement on Thursday, asking for fair access to electorate in coming General Election in light of the COVID-19 pandemic and the ongoing social-distancing measures.
This statement follows the comments made by Deputy Prime Minister and Finance Minister, Heng Swee Keat in an interview with Channel News Asia yesterday, where he said that the sooner the General Election is held, the quicker Singapore can deal with the Covid-19 situation.
SDP wrote, “It is unfortunate and even dangerous for the elections to be seen as an inconvenience to be gotten over with rather than a critical moment for the nation to come together to decide on its future especially in light of the Coronavirus fallout.”
“It is clear that the PAP is determined to hold the election despite the on-going pandemic. It must not be allowed to pull a quick event and gloss over existential threats to our society, many brought about by the PAP itself.”
It pointed out that there are grave and far-reaching issues that need to be thoroughly debated and Singaporeans must get deeply involved in the process as it concerns their lives and the lives of their children.
To do this, the PAP must dispense with its usual tactic of allowing only the minimum period of nine days for campaigning and to monopolise newspaper columns and airwaves, suggested SDP.
“Already, mass rallies will not be a big feature (if they are allowed at all) during the hustings. This puts the opposition at an even greater disadvantage.”
In order to ensure that the election is substantively meaningful, SDP states that contesting parties must be given equitable access to the electorate so that voters are familiar with the various platforms, policies, points and counterpoints.
To achieve this, the SDP calls on the government to:
- Extend the official campaigning to 21 days, instead of the current nine.
- Provide all parties access to the Mediacorp’s channels every night.
- Provide all parties access to radio programmes every day.
- Reserve space in the SPH newspapers for parties to publish their manifestos and ideas daily.
- Allow parties to address residents at food centres, void decks and common areas.
Citing Mr Chan Chun Sing’s call for a strong mandate for the ruling party, SDP states that a strong mandate can only come from an electorate given adequate time and access to the various party platforms and policies.
“Singaporeans will then be fully equipped to go to the polls and make informed and intelligent choices on the momentous question of how they want our country to go forward.”
“Conducting a stunted campaign period with the PAP controlling access to the mass media – not to mention the constricted online space due to a series of laws enacted in recent years – will give the PAP a dubious mandate at best.”
“It will signal a ruling party afraid of scrutiny of the track record of its 4G leadership and, more importantly, examination of the capability of the younger ministers to take Singapore forward.”
“The outcome arising from such a PAP-managed election is detrimental and dangerous to Singapore’s future.”, warned the party.
“Now more than ever, Singaporeans need a fair, transparent and democratic system of governance which only a fair, transparent and democratic GE can bring about.”
On 13 March this year, the Elections Department released the Electoral Boundaries Review Committee (EBRC) report to reveal the revised electoral map, indicating that the next GE will be called very soon. In fact, TOC notes that Elections Department (ELD), which comes under the Prime Minister’s Office, has been preparing for an election in May or June, based on job advertisements relating to elections preparations on various job-seeking platforms. ELD, however, said that these are merely annual preparation work conducted by its contractors.
But with the COVID-19 pandemic and the COVID-19 (Temporary Measures) Bill passed on 7 April, all social gatherings of any size are banned in both private and public spaces. Given that these measures will stay in place till Phase 3 of the easing of the Circuit Breaker measures, it is highly likely that rallies and walkabouts will not be allowed in the upcoming General Election.
However, it is unlikely the PAP candidates will stop appearing on TV shows and programmes while being promoted by the various Ministries on their social media platforms and masquerading as social distancing ambassadors at hawker centres and public spaces.