In its continuing attempt to manipulate the already opaque and unfair electoral process, the People’s Action Party has come up with yet another move called the “cooling off period” to handicap the opposition even more.
Based on news reports, this cooling-off period outlaws rallies, door-to-door visits and wearing of party badges and symbols on the eve of polling.
Not surprisingly, it does not apply to party political broadcasts and news reports. This is because the media is controlled by the PAP and will give the ruling party more opprtunity to disseminate its news while the opposition has no such means.
Such a move is clearly designed to further disadvantage the opposition.
If the PAP really wants a cooling-off period all party political broadcasts and news reports should also be banned during this time.
Direct communication through rallies and groundwork have been opposition’s mode of reaching out to voters. Eve-of- polling rallies have remained crucial to the opposition because of the media’s negative spin of news against the opposition.
Besides, elections in Singapore are already devoid of any heat. Any more cooling and the elections will go into deep freeze, sending voters into hibernation.
For these reasons, the SDP opposes the proposed cooling-off period and wants to see a genuine electoral process that would include:
* an independent elections commission to run and oversee elections, not the current set-up controlled by the Prime Minister’s Office,
* a free and pluralistic media that report fairly on all contesting parties,
* enough time (at least 3 weeks) for campaigning.
Without these changes and as long as the rules and regulations continue to be changed to benefit the PAP, elections in Singapore will remain a charade staged by the ruling party to hoodwink the people once every four or five years.
Singapore Democratic Party
From a Today report, All will be quiet on the eve…, published 1 Dec 2009,
Workers’ Party secretary-general Low Thia Khiang raised similar concerns. The ruling party could “disguise” its campaign as news items in the mass media, but the Opposition would be unable to do so, he told MediaCorp.
For instance, he noted, if the Opposition were to campaign on, say, healthcare, the relevant government department could counter on policy issues on the cooling-off day.
Such stories can be run in the mass media without highlighting any PAP candidate, he said. “This will effectively give the ruling party an extra day of campaigning to the disadvantage of the Opposition.”
As for the “potential public order problems”, the Hougang MP said these could be prevented by the existing rules that disallow contesting political parties to be in the announcement centre when voting results are announced. Each party’s supporters have their own assembly centre on polling night, he noted.
“I don’t think Singapore voters are irrational in casting their vote based on my past experience,” he stated.
Workers’ Party’s Yaw Shin Leong was quoted in the Chinese daily Shin Min Daily News, 01 December 2009, Page 5,
WP: ‘Cool Off Day’ Reduces Opposition Parties’ Already Limited Electoral Outreach Channels
WP’s Organizing Secretary Yaw Shin Leong during an interview described that ‘Cool off Day’ seems like one of the multiple PAP elections engineering strategies. This will reduce opposition parties’ already limited electoral outreach channels. He expressed that since on ‘Cool off Day’ only media broadcast & reports are permitted, this may result in the incumbent party tapping upon its (‘non-political’) grassroots mechanisms or its (pro-PAP) labor unions’ networks to conduct ‘whispering campaigns’. However opposition parties without these platforms would not be able to do so.
The Reform Party Opposes PM’s Proposed ‘Cooling-Off’ Period
Reform Party, 2 Dec 2009
The Reform Party does not see any objective need for a one-day cooling-off period before the general election as proposed by PM Lee on Monday and reported yesterday.
The first reason given by the PM was that Singaporean voters needed time to reflect on their choice and needed time to calm down after the excitement of the election period. We believe the Singapore voter is adult and rational enough to make his or her own decision and will not be swayed by emotion. Furthermore, though the PM said that there would be a ban on political campaigning with only the eve-of-poll political broadcast allowed during this period, there are at least two reasons why this will favour the ruling party:
• Time allocated to political parties is determined by number of seats contested which massively favours the PAP. You need to field more than six candidates to get any airtime at all
• Given the government’s control of the mainstream media and past experience, it is likely that the media will continue to run news reports putting a highly favourable spin on past government policies and/or announcing new ones, with comments from the ministers concerned. Also on past experience editorials in the mainstream media are overwhelmingly likely to advocate that voters should cast their votes for the government.
The PM cites Australia and Indonesia as examples of countries which have similar ‘quiet’ periods before elections. Both Indonesia and Australia are proper democracies as classified by Freedom House with combined ratings of 2.5 and 1 respectively for civil liberties and political rights.
However Singapore is not even classified as a democracy with a rating of 4.5. Also both countries allow considerably longer campaigning periods than Singapore’s nine days in the first place. Australia allows a minimum of 33 days and Indonesia’s last presidential election allowed 22 days of mass rallies.
The Reform Party therefore strongly opposes the current government’s proposal for a cooling-off period. However this will only be one more of the numerous restrictions which tilt the playing field so far against the opposition and which prevent Singapore being classified as a democracy. The Reform Party repeats its call for the government to:
• Restore Singaporean’s rights to freedom of expression by repealing the Newspaper and Printing Presses Act and allowing an independent media to develop
• Remove the Elections Department from the control of the Prime Minister’s Office. We call upon the government to release the latest electoral boundaries now and in any case well ahead of the next election so that the opposition have a chance to prepare.
• Extend the campaign period to three weeks from the current nine days
• Abolish the GRC system and return to SMCs
• Refrain from threatening voters that if they elect opposition candidates their constituency will be denied the legitimate benefits that are due to them from the taxes they have paid.
• Amend the libel laws to bring us in line with free nations like the USA and Australia
Released by the Reform Party’s CEC:
Quek Teow Chuan
Tan Tee Seng
Jacob 69er: Read my posts here and here on the ‘changes’ in the electoral system and Seelan’s My blog will disregard the “cooling-off” day election regulation