The announcement today by the Elections Department that campaigning guidelines will have to wait, possibly until parliament is dissolved, signals the PAP's intent to tilt the GE in its favour as much as it can.
The fact that it cannot even release the rules for campaigning because they may be "overtaken by events" is clear demonstration that the Covid-19 spread is still very much not under control.
The obscene rush for an election under such circumstances reveals the PAP's wanton disregard for the safety and public health of Singaporeans in favour of its own political interests.
To be clear, the party has already started its campaigning even during the Circuit Breaker with some of its MPs out for photo-ops. PM Lee and other ministers are also making political speeches this week and next.
Elections in Singapore have always provided PAP maximum exposure and the opposition minimum reach to the electorate. This GE, widely predicted to be held in July, will make the gap even wider.
To remedy such an unfair process, the SDP calls for the following:
- Extend the period between the issuing of the Writ of Election and Nomination Day from five to ten days to allow parties to organise our campaigns and make the necessary logistical preparations including safety equipment for volunteers and polling agents. This is especially important if the ELD only announces the election rules following the issuance of the Writ.
- Provide 21 days for the official campaign period instead of the current nine. This will enable weighty issues that confront our nation to be properly canvassed and debated on air and in print (see points 3, 4 and 5 below).
- Give all parties access to the Mediacorp TV channels every night, over and above the traditional political broadcasts.
- Provide all parties access to radio programmes every day.
- Reserve column space in newspapers for parties to publish our manifestos as well as discuss our ideas/proposals.
- Allow parties to address residents at food centres, void decks and common areas subject, of course, to safety social distancing rules.
This election, quite unlike others in the past, will require Singaporeans to be even more actively and intensely engaged. To this end, nothing short of an open and meaningful electoral process will do.
The above proposals that the SDP puts forward will enable the conduct of just such an election. To do otherwise risks the PAP being accused of robbing the people of a meaningful exercise to choose those who would govern them.
And there is nothing worse than a nation questioning the mandate of those who claim power in such a momentous period.