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WP Giam seeks clarification on political campaigning and rights of MPs after parliament is dissolved

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Education Minister Chan Chun Sing replied saying that former MPs could hold Meet-the-People sessions and interact with residents as well as provide assistance as long as they don’t misrepresent themselves to be serving MPs

SINGAPORE — The Workers’ Party member of parliament Gerald Giam filed several Parliamentary Questions during the recent parliament sitting related to the general elections campaigning before nomination day, the rights of MPs after parliament is dissolved and the accuracy of a particular section of the candidate handbook from the 2020 Singapore General Election.

Giam received an oral reply from Chan Chun Sing, the Education Minister on behalf of the Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong for one of his parliamentary questions, on whether political parties and potential candidates can conduct election campaigning from the day that the writ of election has been issued up till nomination day.

Minister Chan explained that the election laws primarily regulate campaigning during the campaign period, which commences from the closure of the place of nomination on Nomination Day and ends at the start of the eve of Polling Day.

“Outside of the campaign period, the election laws do not prohibit political parties and aspiring candidates from conducting activities such as house-to-house visits, visiting markets and coffee shops to interact with residents, or to explicitly canvass for votes while wearing their party uniforms and badges. This is assuming that these activities comply with the other laws of the land,” said Minister Chan.

“However, there are some restrictions during this period. For example, election advertising must comply with the prevailing publishing requirements and non-Singapore citizens must not publish or display election advertising,” added the Education Minister.

Minister Chan provided a written reply to Giam’s other two parliamentary questions on election matters. The Aljunied GRC MP wants to know what are the rights and duties of a member of parliament after parliament is dissolved and before the results of the election are announced. Whether the former MPs are allowed to hold meet-the-people sessions in their constituencies, provide assistance to the residents and write appeal letters to government agencies or other organisations on behalf of their constituents.

“The law does not prohibit anyone, including former members of parliament from holding Meet-the-People sessions, interacting with residents and providing assistance to them (such as by writing appeal letters) after Parliament is dissolved, as long as they do not misrepresent themselves to be serving MPs,” said Minister Chan in the written reply.

Giam also wanted to know whether government agencies are obliged to respond to these appeal letters written by former MPs during the period when parliament has been dissolved. Minister Chan explained that the ministries and other government agencies will duly consider any appeal letters received, whether they are written by serving MPs, former MPs or members of the public, and will reply to the appeal letters after due consideration. 

The final parliamentary question by Giam is whether the guidelines in ‘Section 2.4 of the Candidate Handbook for General Election 2020’ published by the Elections Department concerning activities from the writ of election to nomination day are legally accurate. 

Minister Chan explained that the guidelines in section 2.4 of the Candidate Handbook for General Election 2020, concerning activities from the Writ of Election to Nomination Day, are legally correct in respect of General Election 2020.

The particular section both WP’s Giam and Minister Chan are referring to can be found below.

2.4. Activities from Writ of Election to Nomination Day

After the Writ of Election is issued and before the campaign period starts , activities such as walkabouts, house-to-house visits, distributing election pamphlets, handouts and newsletters, and publishing of party manifestos and candidates’ biographical details will be subject to the applicable election advertising requirements, and any other licenses or permits required from the regulatory authorities. Such activities must also be conducted within the limits of the law.

Political parties and candidates may conduct campaigning activities such as walkabouts, house-to-house visits and the distribution of collaterals. During such activities, they are to take the necessary precautions, e.g. adhering to limits on group size, wearing masks, maintaining safe distancing, keeping all interactions and engagements transient (i.e. of short duration) and minimising physical contact, such as refraining from shaking hands. Candidates and political parties should also ensure that the members of the public they interact with adhere to prevailing safe distancing measures. For detailed guidelines, political parties and candidates can refer to the Advisory To Political Parties And Candidates On Safe Physical Campaigning During General Election 2020, which can be found at ELD website (www.eld.gov.sg).

The 2020 General Election was held in the midst of the Covid-19 pandemic and there were several restrictions in place including the wearing of facemasks in public areas. There was no physical rally and instead there was a constituency political broadcast aired by the national mainstream media. Candidates also turned to social media and online platforms to push out their political messages and garner for support.

In 2020, Parliament was dissolved on June 23 and the writ of election was issued on the same day. Nomination day was held a week later on June 30, and Singaporeans went to the poll on July 10. The next general election must be held by Nov 2025.

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