According to reports, the Elections Department (ELD) has released its updated guidelines on political campaigning ahead of the upcoming General Election. It has also announced the dates for political broadcasts.

Given the current climate of the COVID-19 pandemic, there will be no physical rallies. Among other alternative campaigning methods, there will be pre-recorded Constituency Political Broadcasts (CPB), which will be aired on Mediacorp’s Channel 5 over the period of 3 July to 7 July, starting from 7pm.

Each Single Member Constituency (SMC) candidate will be allocated three minutes, while four-member Group Representation Constituencies (GRC) will be allocated 12 minutes per team. Five-member GRCs will be allocated 15 minutes per team.

However, it would appear that political parties that field at least six candidates will be given the extra privilege of party political broadcasts (PPBs), which are scheduled to take place between 2 July and 9 July, starting from 7pm.

Instead of one-off broadcasts on Mediacorp’s Channel 5, these PPBs will be broadcast across 19 TV and radio channels. On top of the extra airtime granted to PPBs, PPBs are also granted the right to be broadcast on Cooling-Off Day!

Why are PPBs granted such extra seemingly preferential treatment? How did the ELD come to this decision and why? How did they come up with the arbitrary number of six candidates? Given that PPBs are granted extra publicity time – which is so important in election campaigning – shouldn’t the ELD explain why such an exemption was granted in the first place?

Given that the People’s Action Party (PAP) is the largest party in Singapore, it will have no problem fielding candidates in every SMC and GRC. It will therefore meet the “at least six candidates” requirement and have the right to broadcast PPBs. Alternative parties with much less resources will struggle and have to make do with less publicity and coverage. Is the PAP trying to capitalise on its size and reach by making it harder for the smaller parties? Is this fair?

Besides, why are PPBs granted an exemption on Cooling-Off Day in the first place? This is not a decision that has yet been explained.

The whole point of Cooling-Off Day is to give voters time to think about their choices without being influenced. There should be no campaigning on that day.

Given that PPBs are essentially party campaign videos, wouldn’t they breach the ethos behind Cooling-Off day rules? Have these rules been engineered in the hope that many PAP videos will be aired on Cooling-Off Day and across many channels?

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