The Election Department (ELD) announced last Thursday (18 June) that there will not be any physical rallies if the next General Election (GE) is held during Phase Two of Singapore’s reopening. Instead, there will be more airtime given on national television channels for all political parties.
The ELD also released the preliminary campaigning guidelines for the next GE, noting that the guidelines follow the reference from the Ministry of Health (MOH)’s guidelines pertaining to Phase Two of the country’s reopening.
“The announcement of these guidelines has no relation to the timing of the general election, which will be decided by the Prime Minister,” it said.
Instead of the usual physical rallies, there will be more airtime on national free-to-air TV channels for political parties and candidates. The ELD noted that this is to allow them to put their messages out to voters, while safeguarding public health and safety.
“Each candidate contesting in a Single Member Constituency (SMC) will be given 3 minutes of airtime on national TV.
“Each group of candidates contesting in a Group Representation Constituency (GRC) will be given 12 minutes or 15 minutes respectively, depending on whether it is a 4- or 5-member GRC,” as stated in the guidelines.
Constituency political broadcasts will be aired on Mediacorp’s Channel 5, which is a one-off, special arrangement for the next election.
The ELD advised members of the public to watch the political broadcasts from their own homes, and not gather in groups beyond the sizes allowed under the MOH guidelines.
Additionally, candidates can opt to hold e-rally livestreams as the Government will provide venues – equipped with internet connectivity at subsidised rate – where candidates can apply and utilise the space for live streaming at specific time slots during the campaign period.
The ELD also noted that candidates and voters should not make, exhibit, or distribute party political films. Factual and objective films, party manifestos, and the candidate’s declaration of policies will not be considered party political films.
“However, a recording of a livestream that employs dramatisation and/or animation to present an inaccurate account, sensationalise and mislead viewers on political matters is likely to be considered a party political film,” it added.
Upon reading about this new announcement, netizens took to the Facebook page of The Straits Times to question if providing more airtime on national television for all political parties during campaign period is a “level playing field” for opposition parties.
They explained that this is not fair for the opposition because the ruling party, People’s Action Party (PAP), has the backing of TV channels, hence giving them a huge advantage.
Others stated that “PAP already play cheat” as it had already been given national broadcast airtime in the form of PAP ministers making speeches about post-COVID Singapore in the past two week.
One user even added that the PAP Ministers had also given speeches on radio a couple of weeks ago. As such, Bc Koh said airtime must be fairly distributed among all parties.
A large number of online users questioned the need to have an election so soon while the country is still fighting against the COVID-19 pandemic.
They explained that they understand now why Phase 2 came so early, adding that it reveals “PAP’s wanton disregard for the safety and public health of Singaporeans in favour of its own political interest”. Additionally, they called for the GE to be held next year.