Foreign interference in Singapore politics, elections 'cannot be underestimated': Chan Chun Sing

Foreign interference in Singapore politics, elections 'cannot be underestimated': Chan Chun Sing

singapore flag
A Singapore flag above the National Gallery museum overlooking the financial district in Singapore. (Photo: Roslan Rahman/AFP)

SINGAPORE: Singaporeans must be vigilant about any potential attempts by foreign parties to influence local politics and undermine the democratic process, said Minister in the Prime Minister’s Office Chan Chun Sing on Tuesday (Aug 1).

He was responding to questions in Parliament about whether elections in Singapore are vulnerable to foreign interference, particularly with the Presidential Election due in September.

“Foreign interference in domestic politics and electoral processes cannot be underestimated and must always be factored into our social and psychological defence,” said Mr Chan.

“History has shown that bigger and more powerful states will seek to advance their interests by projecting their influence on usually smaller or less organised ones via all instruments of power,” he added. “We cannot expect to be immune to such external forces.”

When asked by Workers’ Party MP Png Eng Huat on whether there have been any past incidents of foreign interference in the electoral process, Mr Chan said it “would not be convenient” for him to reveal details publicly due to the sensitive nature of the subject.

“We take it as a working assumption that every day, every moment, we must be careful of potential foreign interference in our processes … suffice to say that we will never let our guard down,” the minister added.

Mr Chan told the House that the threat is compounded by the pervasive use of the Internet and fake news, and urged Singaporeans to be more discerning in what they read or hear.

“It is critical for Singaporeans ourselves to recognise that foreign influence campaigns continue to exist … the integrity of our democratic process is the collective responsibility of all stakeholders and our electorate,” he said.

Mr Chan also laid out the measures Singapore has taken to guard against foreign influences. For instance, election laws prohibit foreigners from taking part in election activities and the Political Donations Act prevents election candidates and parties from accepting foreign funding.

Beyond the elections, the Public Order Act was also amended earlier this year to make clear that the police may refuse to grant permits for public assemblies organised by foreign entities and which are directed at advancing political causes.

There are also measures to protect Government networks and systems, said Mr Chan. “If these systems are compromised, they can be exploited to leak information or propagate fake news to disrupt election campaigns and shape voting patterns,” he warned.

“Ultimately, our best defence is a discerning electorate that recognises the realities of geopolitics and the world which we live in.”

Source: CNA/gs