The Workers’ Party calls for clarity in the election campaign rules in view of the COVID-19 pandemic as there has been a distinct lack of clarity of how they will be modified.
The party notes that several Ministers have made vague and unspecific comments since March that campaign methods would need to be modified. In particular, is Deputy Prime Minister Heng Swee Keat’s comment made in a media interview yesteday (27 May) with Channel News Asia that the General Elections (GE) should be held soon.
When asked if the next GE will be held after the start of Phase 3 of Singapore’s exit strategy from the “circuit breaker”, DPM Heng said: “I would say that, yes, elections are coming nearer by the day.”
He added, “The sooner we get it done, the earlier we can rally everybody together to deal with these very significant challenges ahead, and also to deal with these very significant uncertainties in the months and years ahead.”
“However, despite the Party’s calls, there has been no definitive announcement by the Elections Department on these anticipated changes.” wrote the party on its Facebook page.
It voiced concern on how political parties will risk squandering resources and expenditures with uncertainty as to what mode of campaigning will or will not be allowed.
“For instance, while it has been stated that streaming of videos may be employed, it is not known whether there will be regulations about the content and format of such videos. In addition, with elections “coming nearer by the day”, the window of time to find suitable suppliers for services is narrowing.” noted the party.
“While Singaporeans continue to focus on overcoming COVID-19, general elections are an essential feature of our democracy that should not be taken lightly.”
The party emphasised that contesting parties should know the ground rules as soon as possible, in order to be well-prepared to offer Singaporean voters their best efforts at the polls.
Singapore’s next GE has to be conducted before 14 April 2021, and the Parliament must be dissolved in January next year.
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.
However, new and old candidates from the People’s Action Party can be seen walking the grounds in the early days of pandemic and through the Circuit Breaker measures till negative public opinion of such walkabouts compelled the party to make a public announcement that all ground engagement will be suspended.
In the beginning of this month (4 May), the Parliament passed a Bill which will enable Singaporeans serving Stay-Home Notices (SHNs) and Quarantine Orders at designated isolation facilities to vote outside their electoral divisions, either at the said facilities or at dedicated polling stations.
The Parliamentary Elections (COVID-19 Special Arrangements) Bill is part of the Government’s “contingency plans” in holding Singapore’s next General Election during the COVID-19 pandemic, according to Minister for Trade and Industry Chan Chun Sing.
Provisions in the Bill will also allow candidates to authorise a representative to file their nomination paper for them on Nomination Day if they are unwell and/or bound by a COVID-19 quarantine order or SHN.
Currently, the Parliamentary Election Act requires aspiring candidates to file nomination papers in person.
WP’s worries are not unfounded. In the last GE, ELD announced changes to the election campaign rules just a month prior to the election.