Police probing by-election poll published by Straits Times: Elections Department

The ELD says police are looking into the snap by-election poll result published by Straits Times. (Yahoo! photo) (Yahoo! photo)

The Elections Department (ELD) has confirmed an ongoing police investigation into an election poll result published by Singapore's largest daily broadsheet, The Straits Times, earlier this week.

“In response to media queries about the poll on the Punggol East By-Election published in The Straits Times on 10 Jan 2013, the case is currently being looked into by the Police,” said a spokesman for the ELD in a statement to Yahoo! Singapore on Sunday evening.

The ST article published on the said date was headlined, "ST poll: More rooting for PAP" and
gave information detailing which party some 50 residents were planning to vote for.

"While 21 of those polled say they are undecided, those rooting for the People's Action Party outnumbered opposition supporters 19 to 10," said the report.

"The edge that the ruling party appears to hold may be a reflection of the incumbency advantage it has always held in a middle class, traditonally PAP-leading ward," it continued.

According to the Parliamentary Elections Act (PEA), no person is allowed to publish exit polls between the time that the writ for an election is called until the close of Polling Day.

Chapter 218 of the PEA reads," No person shall publish or permit or cause to be published the results of any election survey during the period beginning with the day the writ of election is issued for an election and ending with the close of all polling stations on polling day at the election".

The Straits Times article was published on Thursday,
a day after President Tony Tan had issued a writ for a by-election to be held at the end of this month.

Local blogger Lee Kin Mun, better known as mrbrown, first questioned the legality of the newspaper's actions on Friday evening, in a public post on Facebook.

He accompanied his question with the relevant section of the Act that specifically stated the period restriction under which polls cannot be made.

Straits Times editor Warren Fernandez on Sunday apologised for the lapse and said the paper would cooperate fully with the police.

"Our reporters spoke with residents in Punggol East to get their comments and a sense of the ground for our election reports. This was not a full-scale survey, or scientific poll, by any means," he reportedly said. "The headline for our story overstated the significance of the information gathered by calling it a poll. We are sorry for this lapse."

In 2011, Joseph Ong Chor Teck was arrested for conducting an exit poll on the then-Temasek Review Facebook page.

Anyone who is found guilty of conducting an exit poll within the specified time period in the Parliamentary Elections Act is liable to face fines of up to $1,500 or a jail term of up to a year, or both.