The Elections Department (ELD) has responded to a formal request by the Singapore Democratic Party (SDP) “to clarify the legal status of displaying political party flags in public places”. This question was raised as a result of the display of party flags in Marine Parade by the Peoples’ Action Party (PAP).
This is a very important question to ask because the date of the General Election has been announced, and if the PAP is allowed to put up flags, then, this right should also be accorded to other political parties.
According to the ELD, the rules relating to the display of posters and banners under the Parliamentary Elections (Election Advertising) Regulations do not apply at this time as the period of campaigning by political parties for the 10 July General Election has not yet begun. Instead, the display of posters and banners is currently governed by other legislation such as the Town Councils Act.
A brief look at the Town Councils Act seems to suggest that the act is completely silent on the display of flags and banners. What other legislation is the ELD talking about if the Parliamentary Elections (Election Advertising) Regulations do not apply at this time? How then is this flag display governed? Did the PAP get any requisite sign off or approval or did it simply erect them wherever they wanted?
Besides, this answer provided by the ELD sounds a bit like a cop out. The election date has already been announced. The timing of the erection of the flags would suggest that this has everything to do with campaigning which in turn means that the the Parliamentary Elections (Election Advertising) Regulations should apply at this time!
According to a volunteer at the Marine Parade PAP branch office, who declined to be named, the PAP flags were put up “as part of National Day celebrations”. What has a party flag got to do with national day?
Surely, it should be the Singapore flag that is displayed and not the PAP flag? The PAP flag represents a political party, not the country. Is the PAP trying to conflate statehood with partyhood?
If so, that is disingenuous because Singapore will still be Singapore regardless of which party forms government. Are the flags put up to promote the PAP ahead of the General Election under the guise of national day?
Besides, this was also an issue that arose in the 2011 General Election where PAP flags were planted in several estates in Bukit Batok, Woodlands, Hougang, Toa Payoh. At that time, it was not at all close to national day which makes the PAP’s “national day” explanation ring hollow.
The same volunteer also said that the PAP flags were put up within branch perimeters. But is this a convincing explanation? What areas are considered branch perimeters?
Looking at the photographs of the flats, they look like the are on the side of the road and not seemingly within the branch perimeters (whatever branch perimeters even means).