Singapore: For the first time, Singapore will hold political campaigns on television and do away with the physical rallies if the General Election is held during the phase II of the city-state’s reopening after the COVID-19 circuit breaker, it was announced on Thursday. Also Read – With 3803 New Infections, Coronavirus Cases in Bangladesh Cross 100,000-mark
Political parties and candidates will get free airtime on Mediacorp’s Channel 5 should the next General Election fall during phase two of the reopening during the pandemic, the Elections Department (ELD) said. Also Read – Coronavirus Patient ‘Hangs Self’ at Ambala Hospital
The government will also subsidise the cost of the venues with Internet connectivity for parties and candidates to livestream online rallies, as gatherings of more than five are prohibited under Phase II and most of the campaigning would likely be conducted online. Also Read – Amit Shah Meets Delhi CM Kejriwal to Review Situation, ‘Save NCR’ From COVID-19 Spread
Singapore’s next General Election has to be called by April 14, 2021. But, the election is widely expected to be held in the coming months as the ruling People’s Action Party leaders led by Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong have called for holding the polls early.
Singapore’s circuit breaker — a period with enhanced safe distancing measures to stem the spread of COVID-19 — formally ended on June 1 and the country is gradually restarting its economy in three phases over the next several months.
Under Phase I of reopening, businesses that operate in settings with lower transmission risks are allowed to resume, subject to safe distancing guidelines.
Phase II could start by the end of June if the number of COVID-19 transmissions in the community (areas other than hot-spots) remains low and stable.
Physical campaigning activities will be restricted in line with Ministry of Health (MOH) guidelines to prevent the spread of COVID-19 which means that gatherings have to be restricted to a maximum of five people, Channel News Asia reported, citing the ELD.
Political parties doing walkabouts and door-to-door campaigning have to cap their groups at five people, and they should also take other precautions advised by the health authorities such as wearing masks and avoiding physical contact, said the ELD.
Candidates and political parties should also ensure that the members of the public they interact with adhere to prevailing safe distancing measures, the ELD said in a press release.
Familiar sights from previous elections like crowded political rallies and supporters gathering at nomination centres are also out, as large gatherings will not be allowed.
Nomination Day proceedings will be covered by national broadcaster Mediacorp on its TV and online channels.
Only candidates, their proposers, seconders, assentors and accredited media can enter nomination centres, and party supporters will not be allowed to linger nearby, said the ELD.
Gatherings at assembly centres on counting night for supporters to wait for election results will also not be allowed.
Instead of physical rallies, constituency political broadcasts will be aired on Mediacorp’s Channel 5. Each candidate will be given three minutes of airtime on national TV and can choose to speak in any of the four official languages English, Malay, Chinese and Tamil. This is a one-off, special arrangement for the next election.
Members of the public are advised to watch the political broadcasts from their own homes, and not gather in groups beyond the sizes allowed under the prevailing MOH guidelines, said ELD.
Candidates will also have the option of holding e-rally livestreams and the Government will provide venues for live streaming that candidates can apply for and use during the campaign period, at a subsidised rate.
The use of these venues are optional and candidates may campaign via live-streaming elsewhere, at other times, said ELD.
Another change is that perambulating vehicles for campaigning will not be permitted to broadcast music or videos, or have live speakers or live streaming.
“Allowing candidates to speak from the back of perambulating vehicles would amount to a de facto rally and will attract a crowd around them,” said ELD.
“It would pose significant risk to public order, public health and road safety, if crowds congregate or follow the perambulating vehicle on the road.”
In addition, the police will not grant permits for thank you vehicular processions after polling day. This is also because such processions tend to attract crowds.
“Unlike campaigning activities, such processions are not critical to the campaigning process, the Channel quoted ELD as saying.
Besides protecting the health and safety of members of the public, the campaign guidelines are meant to ensure that voters have access to campaigning messages of all political parties and candidates, even amid the COVID-19 situation, said ELD.
Some aspects of election campaigning will not change, for example, there will continue to be a Cooling Off Day where all campaigning must stop ahead of polling. The putting up of posters and banners can continue.
On Monday, the COVID-19 multi-ministry task force announced that Singapore will progress to Phase 2 on June 19, and most activities and businesses can open subject to safety precautions.
Besides capping gatherings to five, the rules also require people to stay at least 1 metre apart where feasible.
Venues where large crowds can congregate, including libraries, places of worship and movie theatres, cannot reopen yet. This phase is likely to last for several months, the task force had said.
The ELD said that when new guidelines are issued for Phase III, it will update the campaigning guidelines in accordance with the prevailing health advisories.