SINGAPORE — Candidates contesting the next general election (GE) must provide more details of their use of internet advertisements during the campaign period, including the amount spent and who paid for it, said the Elections Department (ELD) on Monday (8 June).
Only candidates, their political parties and authorised third party campaigners should publish paid Internet Election Advertising (IEA), in accordance with regulations under the Parliamentary Elections Act. Examples of paid IEA include sponsored social media posts, advertorials and banner ads.
However, while candidates must declare all platforms that they are using to the Returning Officer (RO), these restrictions do not apply to unpaid IEA. Examples include social media posts and blog articles.
At a media briefing on Monday, ELD officials said the new rules aimed to increase transparency and accountability over the use of IEA. They pointed to the misuse of IEA in the 2019 United Kingdom and Indonesian elections, which resulted in widespread proliferation of misinformation.
Among the new measures: in addition to submitting an online declaration to the RO within 12 hours after the start of the campaign period, stating all the platforms they are using for IEA, the candidates must now declare to the RO whether they are using paid IEA.
If so, they must provide further information on the type of services used, the publisher of the paid IEA, the period that it will appear, and money was received for the placement of the paid IEA from the candidate, his election agent, his political party or any other person.
Furthermore, additional particulars must accompany the advertising: that it was paid for by the candidate, political party or an authorised third party campaigner if the latter had paid for advertising. This can be by means of using words like “sponsored by” or “paid for by” on the IEA.
General election due
The next GE must be held by 14 April 2021. However, comments by senior leaders have raised expectations that Singaporeans will be going to the polls in the coming months.
In a television interview last month, Deputy Prime Minister and Finance Minister Heng Swee Keat said that the sooner polls are held, the earlier the elected government can rally Singapore together to deal with significant long-term economic challenges.
Shortly before Heng’s comments, Minister for Trade and Industry Chan Chun Sing said that there is “not much time” left for Singapore’s government to hold its next general election as the city-state has to dissolve parliament in January, months ahead of an April deadline.
Measures against COVID-19
The ELD also announced a series of safety measures for voters and candidates, in the event that the GE is held amid the COVID-19 pandemic.
Candidates and their election agents are strongly encouraged to use ELD’s expanded digital services to prepare the necessary documents required for Nomination Day. The system will be available for use once the Writ of Election is issued.
Aspiring candidates who are unwell and certified by a medical practitioner to be unfit to attend nomination proceedings in person, can have their nomination papers filed by an authorised proxy, as provided for under the Parliamentary Elections (COVID-19 Special Arrangements) Act 2020.
Such representatives must have the power of attorney, which must include authorisation to submit nomination papers and to raise objections to the nomination papers of other candidates. Other requirements for successful nomination, such as the required number of subscribers and Political Donation Certificate, must still be fulfilled.
Subscribers, or seconders, proposers and assentors, who are unwell will not be allowed to enter Nomination Centres. Just as at polling stations, safety measures such as temperature screening and the wearing masks will be employed at Nomination Centres.
Candidates found to have fever or respiratory symptoms during temperature screening will be directed to a separate area for nomination. They and their subscribers can inspect nomination papers of other candidates at a separate area.
Tables and chairs will be cleaned after every team has filed its nomination papers
Candidates and subscribers will stand or sit at least one metre apart when interacting with election officials and other persons.
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