Campaigning rules released and the opposition reveals their slate

There's only one thing left to do...

Hello and welcome to another edition of GE20Watch! I’m your GE Watcher.

As Phase 2 of Singapore’s reopening begins, people are getting ready to be out and about (finally, I need a cold draft beer).

That includes our politicians too, as the elections are all but imminent. I daresay that the next time I write this newsletter, we will know the date of Polling Day. So, there’s no time to lose, let’s get down to the news.

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Campaigning Rules Released

The Elections Department has released the guidelines on election campaigning for all political parties this coming GE. Here is a quick summary:

  • Physical rallies are not allowed, but parties can make “constituency political broadcasts”, which will be shown on Channel 5. Each SMC candidate will be given 3 minutes, while GRC teams will be given 12 or 15 minutes in total, depending on the size of the GRC. For GRC teams, any number of candidates can speak any number of minutes i.e. you can have one candidate speaking for the whole duration, and in any of the official languages (English, Chinese, Malay, Tamil).

  • Parties will be allowed to make 2 party political broadcasts as usual, which will be broadcasted on 19 TV and radio channels, up from 13 in 2015.

  • Candidates may campaign online using live-streaming, and the government will provide subsidised venues for live-streaming purposes.

  • Parties can use moving vehicles to broadcast recorded speeches, but they will not be allowed to make live speeches or broadcast music or videos from these vehicles.

  • Walkabouts and house visits are limited to groups of 5, and each group must remain at a safe distance from one another (1m).

  • Supporters will not be allowed entry into nomination centre on Nomination Day, and they are also not allowed to gather at assembly centres to wait for election results.

Opposition parties have welcomed the latest move to give all parties more airtime, even as they lamented the loss of rallies, which have traditionally garnered the most hype for opposition parties with their large turnouts. For example, this is a Workers’ Party rally:

File:Workers' Party general election rally, Bedok Stadium, Singapore - 20110430-02.jpg

Image credit: Abdul Rahman

The polling, nomination, and election advertising rules have already been released, and you can read about them here in a previous issue if you missed it. Meanwhile, human rights group ASEAN Parliamentarians for Human Rights have released a report titled In Singapore, an Already Unfair Vote Undermined by COVID-19”, claiming that ‘structural restrictions’ prevent the election from being fair, such as the Prime Minister’s office holding broad powers to redraw electoral boundaries, the GRC system, and short campaigning periods.

It remains to be certain whether opposition parties can adjust to the new modes of campaigning, and whether online campaigning will deliver similar gains. Also, with the release of campaigning rules, all that’s left is for Parliament to be dissolved and for elections to be called. The hustings appear to have started already, with the PAP publishing an attack piece on WP chief Pritam Singh. Somewhat ironic, considering the ELD just stated that candidates should “stay clear of negative campaigning”.

The Opposition Gathers Steam

As the election nears, the opposition has been hard at work unveiling their candidates.

The PSP unveiled their first potential slate of candidates via Zoom, with some notable inclusions being former SAF scholar and lieutenant colonel Francis Yuen, and party vice-chairman Hazel Poa, former secretary-general of the NSP. While they have not formally revealed which candidates are going to which constituencies yet, sources have confirmed that Dr Tan Cheng Bock will be leading a team to run in West Coast GRC, together with Poa, Nadarajah Loganathan, Jeffrey Khoo, and another to-be-determined member.

The Reform Party have also announced a potential lineup of seven candidates, including four who had contested West Coast GRC, setting up prospects of a three-way fight together with the PAP. Unfortunately, their unveiling of candidates was less smooth, as it was beset with technical difficulties (I can already hear all the conspiracy theories swirling in your heads).

Separately, the SPP unveiled a slate of five candidates for the GE, with party chairman Jose Raymond running in Potong Pasir SMC and four other members contesting Bishan-Toa Payoh GRC. They had contested these constituencies in 2015. Former party chairman Lina Chiam will not run.

As for the rest, the SDA ‘put on hold’ applications from four other parties to join the alliance, and announced they would be contesting again in Pasir Ris-Punggol GRC. The new kid on the opposition block, Red Dot United, had their application to become a political party approved and can contest in the next elections, although it is uncertain whether they can get ready in time.

And of course, not forgetting the ruling party, several senior civil servants such as IMDA CEO Tan Kiat How have recently resigned from their positions, hinting that they may be fielded for the coming elections.

The board is set, the pieces are settling into position, and all that’s left now is for the game to begin.

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