Physical election campaigning guidelines rest on COVID-19 situation, will be announced later: ELD

Physical election campaigning guidelines rest on COVID-19 situation, will be announced later: ELD

Singapore Chinatown safe distancing
A man on a smartphone wearing a face mask walks past a safe distancing awareness notice in the Chinatown district of Singapore, Apr 13, 2020. (Photo: AFP/Roslan Rahman)

SINGAPORE: Campaigning guidelines for the next General Election will only be announced later, but provisions will be made so that voters will have access to the election messages of all parties and candidates, the Elections Department (ELD) said on Monday (Jun 8).

This may include additional TV broadcast time for candidates and political parties, ELD said.

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The department announced a range of measures for safe polling and candidate nomination, and changes to election advertising rules on Monday, but said that some guidelines for campaigning, such as those for physical rallies, walkabouts and house-to-house visits, will have to wait.

“As these activities involve large group gatherings, the guidelines will depend on the COVID-19 situation at the time. ELD will therefore share these guidelines at a later date,” it said.

For example, if safe distancing guidelines at the time of election require gatherings to be restricted to five people or fewer, then rallies would be out of the question. But if the situation improves and larger gatherings are allowed, then the guidelines will be adjusted accordingly, ELD said.

“If social distancing measures allow 10 persons to congregate, then we will allow walkabouts, subject of course to safe distancing requirements. But if the guideline is such that it’s only five, then we have to decide what (this means) in terms of walkabouts,” the department said.

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OPPOSITION PARTIES WANT GREATER CLARITY

Opposition political parties have called for election campaign rules to be released early so that there can be some clarity on how campaigning will change due to the COVID-19 situation.

However, Trade and Industry Minister Chan Chun Sing had said that these cannot be announced prematurely as they can be “overtaken by events”.

"On one hand, ELD would like to make available the information to the parties and the candidates as early as possible for them to make the preparations. On the other hand, ELD has to work under the challenging constraint that there are many scenarios,” he said on May 30.

READ: SDP calls for period between Writ of Election and Nomination Day to be extended to 10 days​​​​​​​

READ: Workers' Party calls for clarity on campaigning rules for General Election

When asked on Monday when these guidelines might be issued, ELD said: “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”.

ELECTION TIMELINE

The Writ of Election is issued when Parliament is dissolved. Nomination Day must take place five days to a month from then.

From Nomination Day, there will be at least nine days of campaigning and one Cooling-Off Day before polling. Singapore’s next election has to be held by Apr 14, 2021.

ELD also said that it is committed to giving political parties and candidates as much lead time as possible. 

READ: What are the COVID-19 safety measures for Polling Day? Here’s what voters need to know

READ: Elections Department cannot 'prematurely' announce election rules because of 'evolving' COVID-19 situation: Chan Chun Sing

"However, putting out the guidelines early would mean that there could be further changes, as the COVID-19 situation evolves," it said. “As COVID-19 is likely to still be present beyond April 2021, by which time the GE must be held, we strongly encourage candidates and political parties to plan for modes of campaigning that minimise large group gatherings."

ELD added that election advertising guidelines have been shared and this will help political parties prepare for campaigning.

“If they are considering paid Internet election advertising, they will now be aware of the regulations and rules in place. For the rest, as I say, because we don't know when the election will be held, we are still working through the various scenarios.”

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Source: CNA/ic(ac)

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