The opposition Singapore People’s Party (SPP) has joined the Workers’ Party (WP) in urging the Government to publish clear election campaigning rules as soon as possible, following a hint from Deputy Prime Minister Heng Swee Keat that the next General Election could be called soon.
Mr Heng, who is also Finance Minister, had said on CNA on Wednesday (May 27) that it is better to hold the next GE sooner rather than later. He said that the earlier the GE is held, “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”.
When asked whether the people will have to wait for the country to fully re-open before going to the polls, he had said: “The sooner that we can deal with the longer term challenges, the better Singaporeans will emerge out of this, and Singapore will emerge stronger. So I would say that, yes, elections are coming nearer by the day, and you have to be prepared for it.”
Responding to the remarks, the WP said that the Government has yet to issue clear directions on how parties can campaign during the election, even though several ruling party politicians have made “vague” statements that campaign methods would be a lot different in the coming GE compared to previous elections due to the Covid-19 crisis.
Calling on the Government to publish clear campaigning rules, the WP said that the lack of clarity on the new campaigning rules is unfair to opposition parties since they risk squandering the limited funds they have on campaigning methods that could be prohibited in the next election. Opposition parties also need time to plan and find relevant suppliers to meet their campaigning needs.
Asserting that the elections should not be taken lightly even as the nation focuses on overcoming the health crisis, the WP called on the Government to make the campaigning rules clear so that all parties can be prepared to offer voters their best efforts.
It said: “While Singaporeans continue to focus on overcoming Covid-19, general elections are an essential feature of our democracy that should not be taken lightly. 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.”
Seconding the WP’s call, the SPP urged the Government to issue clear directions on election campaigning. The party pointed out that clarity on modifications to election rules is crucial for both political parties as well as members of the public.
SPP chairman Jose Raymond told TODAY: “For example, will there be staggered timing for electors to cast their vote, how will crowds be managed at the polling stations given the need for safe distancing, what extra precautions will be taken to safeguard the health and safety of the public especially the elderly, and most importantly, how will campaigning be conducted during the pandemic fairly.”
He added: “There needs to be absolute clarity, and it needs to be made public expeditiously.”
Earlier this month, Parliament passed amendments to the Parliamentary Elections Act, to ensure that elections can be held safely during the Covid-19 pandemic.
These amendments do not include modifications to campaigning rules. The Elections Department said that plans for campaigning guidelines are in the works.
During the debate in Parliament, WP chairman Sylvia Lim had urged the Government to ensure that the changes on campaign rules are “made known publicly and to political parties as soon as possible, so that candidates and parties have sufficient time to make necessary preparations and source for service suppliers”.
Ms Lim asked when the Elections Department will announce the changes to campaigning rules. Minister for Trade and Industry Chan Chun Sing responded that the rules will be released “with sufficient time for political parties and aspiring candidates to prepare”. /TISG
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