In a bid to reach out to electors to vote for them, election candidates, both the incumbent ruling party and opposition candidates alike, must promote and create awareness of their plans and strategies to manage the social, economic and political welfare of the country. This is done through the process of campaigning.
When and how can candidates campaign?
Candidates may start campaigning after the notice of contested election is issued, up to the start of the Cooling-off Day. Historically, campaigning periods in Singapore have been short – set at a minimum of 9 days, being the period between the Nomination Day and the Polling Day which is mandated to be not earlier than the 10th day and not later than the 56th day after the Nomination Day under Section 34(6)(d) of the Parliamentary Elections Act (PEA). The prohibition of campaigning on Cooling-off Day is to give voters some time to reflect rationally on issues raised during the election before heading to the polls the following day. Permitted campaigning activities are, however, restricted to:
(1) conducting house-to-house visits;
(2) distributing pamphlets;
(3) putting up posters and banners;
(4) campaigning on perambulating vehicles;
(5) advertising on the Internet (within the confines of the rules regarding election advertising under Sections 61(1)(c) and 78A PEA*); and
(6) holding election rallies and meetings.
Pursuant to Section 22 of the Parliamentary Elections (Election Advertising) Regulations (Rev Ed 2011), no candidate is allowed, on his own accord, to advertise over television, in newspapers, magazines or periodicals, or in a public place, unless he is authorised to do so in accordance with the directions of the Returning Officer. Candidates may, however, be given air-time by television stations where such air-time is in the form of news or current affairs containing reference to the election advertising.
Lastly, the maximum amount a candidate or group of candidates can spend on election expenses is an amount equal to $3.50 for each elector (for SMCs), or $3.50 for each elector divided by the number of candidates in the group (for GRCs).Pursuant to Section 74 PEA, election expenses are tracked by a nominated election agent of a candidate through collating a return respecting election expenses which contain detailed statements of all payments made with accompanying bills and receipts, personal expenses paid by the candidate, donations, disputed claims, and unpaid claims if any.
Internet Election Advertising
Section 61(1)(c) PEA requires election advertising that is, or is contained in, a printed document, to bear on its face, the names and addresses of its printer, publisher and the person for whom or at whose direction the election advertising is published. Section 78A PEA requires any other form of election advertising to comply with any regulations made by the Minister prescribing the form and manner in which details as to the names and addresses of the publisher must be included.
Regulations for Internet election advertising is governed by Part III of the Parliamentary Elections (Election Advertising) Regulations (Rev Ed 2011). Under the Regulations, candidates are allowed to:
(1) publish on the Internet photographs, drawings, or illustrations of any candidate or group of candidates;
(2) publish on the internet the manifesto or declaration of policies or ideology;
(3) publish any historical or biographical information;
(4) publish any newsletter, journal or other periodical publication of the political party;
(5) publish any message, article or comment that promotes or opposes any political party or the election of any candidate or group of candidates;
(6) publish any advertisement or material for recruitment of members, subscribers or volunteers;
(7) announce any election meeting or other meeting, or of any constituency visit; or
(8) host chatrooms or discussion forums with moderators appointed to keep logs of all messages.
However, particulars such as the electronic address of the platform on which election advertising is to be published, must be declared within 12 hours after the start of the campaigning period to the Returning Officer before any form of Internet election advertising is permitted.