SINGAPORE – As Singapore inches closer to the polls, the Elections Department has announced campaigning rules to keep candidates, voters and officials safe amid the Covid-19 outbreak.
The new rules will place restrictions on physical campaigning, and parties and candidates have been encouraged to consider alternative modes of campaigning, such as e-rallies.
Here are the new guidelines at a glance.
SOCIAL DISTANCING AT NOMINATION CENTRES
Only candidates, their proposers, seconders and assenters, as well as accredited media personnel, will be allowed in nomination centres. Their supporters should not loiter in the area.
They must follow the prevailing safe distancing measures. Now, guidelines for phase two of Singapore’s reopening are that people should stay at least 1m away from one another. If this is not possible, they can gather in small groups of five, but keep a distance of 1m from other groups.
Nomination proceedings will be covered live by Mediacorp on its TV and online channels.
Walkabouts and door-to-door campaigning will be allowed, but groups must not have more than five people. Each group must keep a 1m distance from other groups, and there must be no mixing between them. Everyone must also wear masks, keep their interactions brief and avoid shaking hands.
NO LIVE SPEECHES OR MUSIC FROM CAMPAIGN VEHICLES
Candidates may use vehicles – typically lorries or trucks outfitted with loudspeakers – to campaign, but they will not be allowed to speak, livestream or broadcast music and videos from the vehicle. However, they can broadcast recorded messages.
The police will not grant permits for thank-you vehicular processions after Polling Day, because such processions tend to attract crowds.
NO ELECTION MEETINGS
No police permits will be granted for election meetings, including rallies and gatherings at assembly centres on counting night for supporters to wait for election results.
MORE TV AIRTIME FOR CANDIDATES
Political parties and candidates will be given more airtime on national free-to-air TV channels, instead of open-air rallies.
There will be two party political broadcasts, which will be aired on 19 TV and radio channels – up from 13 in the 2015 General Election.
Constituency political broadcasts will also air on Mediacorp’s Channel 5.
Each candidate contesting in a single-member constituency will get three minutes of airtime.
Each group of candidates contesting in a group representation constituency will have either 12 minutes or 15 minutes of airtime, depending on whether it is a four or five-member constituency. Parties can decide if one or more members of the GRC team should speak during the allotted time for that GRC.
Candidates can speak in Singapore’s four official languages.
Election advertising on the Internet, including in e-mails, and on social media as well as forums, must abide by the Parliamentary Elections (Election Advertising) Regulations.
This includes declaring to the Returning Officer the details of every Internet election advertising platform used to publish election advertising, and the use of paid election advertising on the Internet, with information such as the type of services used and the source of funding.
Candidates can apply to use venues provided by the Government to livestream e-rallies at specific times. These venues will offer an Internet connection at subsidised rates, and should be used for only e-rally livestreams, and nothing else.
Use of these venues, however, is optional, and candidates can opt to conduct livestreams elsewhere.
Candidates are expected to make their own arrangements for filming and livestreaming.
The Internet platforms the e-rallies are streamed on should meet certain requirements – for instance, they must have been declared to the Returning Officer.
More details will be announced after the Writ of Election is issued.
RESTRICTIONS ON FILMS
The use of films in campaigning is subject to the Films Act. Candidates who plan to publicly show or distribute their films must first submit them to the Infocomm Media Development Authority for classification. They do not have to do this if the films are only posted online but they must comply with the Internet Code of Practice.
Candidates and voters must not make, exhibit or distribute party political films.
The Films Act defines a party political film as one that is “an advertisement made by or on behalf of any political party in Singapore or any body whose objects relate wholly or mainly to politics in Singapore, or any branch of such party or body”. It is also one “made by any person and directed towards any political end in Singapore”.
According to the Elections Department, “factual and objective films that do not dramatise and/or present an inaccurate account, such as live recordings of events held in accordance with the law, factual documentaries, manifestos of the political party, or the candidate’s declaration of policies, will not be considered party political films”.
A recording of a livestream of an online rally that is “not modified to present an inaccurate account” would be allowed, for example.
A recording of a livestream that uses dramatisation or animation to present an inaccurate account, sensationalise or mislead viewers on political matters is likely to be considered a party political film, the Elections Department added.
WATCH BROADCASTS AT HOME
People are advised to watch political broadcasts from their own homes, and not at livestreaming venues. They should also not gather in groups larger than what is allowed under the Ministry of Health guidelines.
ACTIVITIES UNAFFECTED BY COVID-19
A cooling-off period – where all campaigning must stop – will be observed from midnight on Cooling-Off Day until after polls close on Polling Day.
Candidates must not exceed the election expenses limit stated in the Parliamentary Elections Act. The maximum spending limit is $4 for every elector on the Register of Electors for the electoral division where the candidate is seeking election.
POSTERS AND BANNERS
Candidates can put up campaign posters and banners as long as they abide by the Parliamentary Elections (Election Advertising) Regulations.
In general, banners and posters – mounted on plywood or cardboard – may be hung on street lamp posts and trees along public roads. People are not allowed to display posters and banners in public places without permission from the Returning Officer.
The permit will include limitations on where and how these materials can be displayed, as well as how many posters and banners can be displayed in the electoral division.
Unauthorised posters and banners will be removed by the authorities, and candidates will have to bear the cost – $50 for every election poster or banner that is removed. This will be considered as part of the candidates’ election expenses.