SINGAPORE: As the 2023 Presidential Election enters its campaigning phase, Singaporean citizens are being reminded of crucial regulations regarding election advertising.
It is important to note that election advertising, regardless of whether it is paid or unpaid, is strictly prohibited on Cooling-off Day, scheduled for 31 August, as well as on Polling Day.
However, there is an exception for online advertisements that have been lawfully published prior to Cooling-off Day and remain unchanged thereafter.
Such advertisements do not need to be removed. Nevertheless, the act of republishing existing ads is regarded as the creation of fresh ones, a practice that is explicitly prohibited on both Cooling-off Day and Polling Day.
This prohibition extends to actions like sharing, resharing, reposting, or boosting existing online election ads.
In a statement released on Tuesday (15 Aug) the Infocomm Media Development Authority (IMDA) and the Elections Department (ELD) emphasized essential regulations governing the forthcoming Presidential Election’s electoral process.
The statement reiterated that the outcome of Singapore’s elections must remain a decision solely for its citizens.
“Individuals who are not citizens of Singapore are prohibited from taking part in any election activity, and publishing or displaying any election advertising during the election period, i.e., from Writ to Polling Day.”
All paid election ads must be declared to the Returning Officer
The guidelines outline that all Singaporeans possess the right to publish unpaid online election advertisements independently.
However, the publishing of paid advertisements is exclusively permitted for candidates and their designated election agents.
Individuals who are not candidates or election agents can publish paid online election advertising only after obtaining written authorization from a candidate or election agent following Nomination Day.
All paid advertisements must be declared to the Returning Officer and must adhere to established requirements.
These requirements encompass disclosing the full names of those involved in publishing, approving content, directing publication, and those who have sponsored or paid for the ad.
“This ensures accountability and prevents the use of paid advertisements as a conduit for foreign interference in the elections process, or to bypass the election expense limits for candidates. ”
IMDA and ELD added that Singaporeans who are not candidates or election agents are not subject to the aforementioned “published-by” requirements when posting unpaid online election ads in their personal capacity and not under external influence.
Furthermore, the statement outlined the prohibition of publishing election survey results or any content resembling survey outcomes during the election period.
“The publication of the results of an election survey, or any content purporting to the results of an election survey, is not allowed during the election period. ”
Election surveys, which gauge voter preferences and opinions, and exit polls, which offer forecasts on election outcomes, are both covered under this restriction.
Party political films
The statement also addressed the prohibition of creating, exhibiting, or distributing party political films.
These films encompass productions aimed at political ends in Singapore that may influence voting outcomes. While the law exempts specific categories of political films, like live recordings of legal events and factual documentaries, it is emphasized that political discourse through film should uphold rationality and factual accuracy.
“In using film as a medium to conduct political discourse, all persons should respect the need to keep politics rational and grounded on facts. This ensures that the political debate in Singapore is conducted in a responsible and dignified manner,” said IMDA and ELD.
MHA and ELD advise presidential election candidates on the threat of foreign interference
Separately, the Ministry of Home Affairs, the Cyber Security Agency of Singapore, and the Elections Department in a joint statement advise presidential election candidates on the threat of foreign interference and cyber-security risks.
The statement on Tuesday warned that foreign interference encompasses discreet endeavors by foreign actors to manipulate domestic politics through covert and deceptive means, which undermines political sovereignty and harms social cohesion.
The statement underlines that recent times have seen instances of suspected foreign interference in the election processes of various nations, including notable cases such as the United States Presidential Election in 2020, the United States Mid-Term Elections in 2018, and the French Presidential Elections in 2017.
“Singapore is not immune. Singapore’s politics should be decided by Singaporeans alone. We should do all we can to safeguard the integrity of our electoral processes. ”
In light of this, the advisory extends to presidential election candidates, urging them to adopt precautionary measures that mitigate the potential of being targeted by foreign interference or unintentionally aiding it.
Moreover, it underscores the Singapore Government’s unwavering commitment to vigilantly counter any instances of foreign intervention.
Turning attention to the realm of cybersecurity, the statement pinpoints instances of malevolent cyber activities, including disruptions, defacement, and data breaches, during the electoral proceedings of other nations.
The statement advised Presidential Election candidates should make a Police report immediately, and keep the Elections Department informed, if they detect or suspect foreign interference in the election, or if their account(s) or system(s) have been compromised or misused.
Forthcoming Presidential Election to take place on 1 September should a contest arise
Should a contest arise, Singaporeans are set to cast their votes on 1 September, with Nomination Day scheduled for the upcoming Tuesday (22 Aug).
Among the potential contenders, four individuals have emerged as presidential hopefuls: the former senior minister, Tharman Shanmugaratnam, aged 66; the entrepreneur George Goh, aged 63; the former GIC investment chief, Ng Kok Song, aged 75; and the former NTUC Income chief, Tan Kin Lian, aged 75.
Presently, Tharman is poised to meet the criteria as a public sector candidate, ensuring his qualification.
In the event that more than one eligible candidate emerges, a competitive election will ensue; otherwise, a walkover will occur on Nomination Day.