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

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

The Singapore Democratic Party, meanwhile, urged the Government to extend the campaigning period.

People's Action Party (PAP) supporters pass a Workers' Party supporter carrying an umbrel
People's Action Party supporters pass a Workers' Party supporter carrying an umbrella at a nomination centre ahead of the General Election in Singapore on Sep 1, 2015. (Photo: Reuters/Edgar Su)

SINGAPORE: The Workers' Party has called on the Government to "publish election campaign rules forthwith", saying it is not clear what changes would be made to campaigning amid the COVID-19 outbreak.

"To date, there has been a distinct lack of clarity as to precisely how campaigning will be modified in view of the COVID-19 pandemic," said the WP in a media release on Thursday (May 28).

"Several ministers have made vague and unspecific comments since March that campaign methods would need to be modified," it added. 

"However, despite the party’s calls, there has been no definitive announcement by the Elections Department on these anticipated changes."

The WP's comments come a day after Deputy Prime Minister Heng Swee Keat said that "elections are coming nearer by the day".

In an interview with CNA on Wednesday, Mr Heng said: "The sooner we get it done, the earlier we can rally everybody together to deal with these very significant challenges ahead, and also to deal with these very significant uncertainties in the months and years ahead."

READ: The sooner the General Election is held, the sooner Singaporeans can tackle challenges ahead: DPM Heng

READ: Commentary: What elections in a coronavirus outbreak could look like

With uncertainty over what mode of campaigning will be allowed, political parties "risk squandering resources and expenditures", said the WP.

"For instance, while it has been stated that streaming of videos may be employed, it is not known whether there will be regulations about the content and format of such videos," it said, adding that the time available to find suitable suppliers for services is narrowing.

"Contesting parties should know the ground rules as soon as possible, in order to be well-prepared to offer Singaporean voters their best efforts at the polls," the WP added. 

SDP CALLS FOR "EQUITABLE ACCESS TO ELECTORATE"

In a separate statement on its website on Thursday, the Singapore Democratic Party (SDP) called on the Government to extend the campaigning period to 21 days instead of the minimum of nine days currently.

This was among five of its recommendations. 

It also proposed giving all parties access to Mediacorp's channels every night, access to radio programmes every day, reserving space in Singapore Press Holdings' newspapers for parties to publish their manifestos and ideas daily, as well as allowing parties to address residents at food centres, void decks and common areas. 

READ: General Election can wait, priority is to 'prevent a health crisis' - PSP's Tan Cheng Bock

"It is unfortunate and even dangerous for the elections to be seen as an inconvenience to be gotten over with rather than a critical moment for the nation to come together to decide on its future especially in light of the coronavirus fallout." 

READ: General Election can wait, priority is to 'prevent a health crisis' - PSP's Tan Cheng Bock

"Already, mass rallies will not be a big feature (if they are allowed at all) during the hustings. This puts the opposition at an even greater disadvantage," said the SDP on its website.

"In order that the election is substantively meaningful, contesting parties must be given equitable access to the electorate so that voters are familiar with the various platforms, policies, points and counterpoints."

Parliament had passed a Bill on May 4 to facilitate voting during the COVID-19 pandemic.

Under the Parliamentary Elections (COVID-19 Special Arrangements) Bill, Singaporeans who are under COVID-19 stay orders at designated facilities will be allowed to vote outside of their electoral divisions.

An aspiring candidate who is on a COVID-19 quarantine order or stay-home notice, who is hospitalised or ill may also authorise a representative to file his nomination paper on his behalf. 

The Bill does not cover other precautionary measures that Elections Department (ELD) is planning for, such as those on campaigning. ELD said it will share the guidelines for campaigning in due course

Source: CNA/ad(gs)

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