The Elections Department (ELD) has released some information of its contingency plans for safety measures for Nomination and Polling proceedings at the next General Election (GE).
These measures are said to protect the health and safety of voters, candidates and election officials, and ensure that the next GE can be conducted safely should it be held during the COVID-19 situation.
In drawing up these measures, ELD will abide by the prevailing Ministry of Health (MOH) guidelines on safe distancing and safe management so that candidates, voters and election officials are kept safe during the proceedings.
Election officials will be equipped with the necessary protective gear to protect themselves as well as candidates and voters.
ELD’s key considerations are to:
(a) Minimise the exposure of voters, candidates and election officials to unwell persons and those who may have come into recent close contact with COVID-19 cases;
(b) Ensure the safety of voters, candidates and election officials; and
(c) Safeguard the health of our senior voters, who are more vulnerable.
These safety measures go beyond the provisions in the Parliamentary Elections (COVID-19 Special Arrangements) Act 2020, which allows ELD to implement special, temporary arrangements to ensure the safety of voters, candidates and election officials.
As for campaigning rules, ELD states that guidelines for campaigning (e.g. whether physical rallies, walkabouts and house-to-house visits can continue) will take guidance from prevailing MOH guidelines on safe distancing and safe management.
As these activities involve large group gatherings, ELD states that the guidelines will depend on the COVID-19 situation at the time and, therefore, be shared at a later date.
ELD pointed out that if prevailing health advisories restrict large group activities, it will ensure that voters have access to the campaigning messages of all political parties and candidates. This may include additional TV broadcast time for candidates and political parties.
In consideration of the health and safety of all individuals during the COVID-19 situation, ELD strongly encourages candidates and political parties to plan for modes of campaigning that minimise large group gatherings.
It highlighted that campaigning activities on the Internet can continue, in accordance with guidelines for such activities.
Opposition parties such as Workers Party and Singapore Democratic Party have asked for clarity in the election campaign rules and fair access to electorate in coming GE in light of the ongoing social-distancing measures for COVID-19.
Minister for Trade and Industry Chan Chun Sing has, however, said on 30 May that ELD cannot “prematurely” announce the rules and regulations relating to the next GE as these may be “overtaken by events”.
As to when these guidelines might be issued, ELD said to media: “Rest assured that we are working through the scenarios, and as soon as … we have some clarity, we will share the guidelines with political parties and candidates.”
“Certainly it will not be later than the day of the Writ (of Election), so that will still give enough time for candidates and political parties to plan their campaigning strategies,” it said, adding that this would be the “worst case scenario”.
Based on the last few elections, the opposition parties and candidates have around a week to prepare after the parliament is dissolved before the nomination day, following that the short nine days of campaigning till polling day.
ELD is a department under the direct purview of the Prime Minister’s Office. It is unlikely that the Prime Minister and his party does not know what ELD has planned or has no influence over its proposed measures.Fullscreen Mode