On the ground

Elections Dept sets out rules for civic, professional, business groups

A man walking past the signboard in front of the Elections Department building in Singapore, on Aug 26, 2015.
A man walking past the signboard in front of the Elections Department building in Singapore, on Aug 26, 2015.PHOTO: EPA

Civic, business or professional groups taking part in political activities in the lead-up to the polls must ensure they are allowed to do so under their Constitutions, the Elections Department (ELD) said yesterday.

Such activities include using its own funds or premises for political purposes, endorsing candidates, and publishing advertisements or press statements in support of any candidate, the ELD said in a statement.

Civic, business or professional groups include registered businesses, chambers of commerce, and voluntary welfare organisations such as the Sunshine Welfare Action Mission (Swami) Home.

While such groups can discuss among its members the merits of supporting a candidate, it must not influence how votes are cast at the ballot box, the ELD added.

"It remains each individual's right as a voter, regardless of membership of any organisation, to freely decide whom to support, and how to cast his vote," it said.

The ELD has put up an e-booklet on its website containing, among other things, information on Nomination Day proceedings, and guidelines for supporters of a candidate.

The ELD also said anyone who conducts activities to "promote or procure the election of a candidate" must be authorised in writing by the candidate or election agent on, and from, Nomination Day. Foreigners, it added, are banned from taking part in any form of election activity.

Earlier this month, a complaint was made against the Swami Home, saying it had breached its constitution when the home hosted the People's Action Party when it introduced its candidates for Sembawang GRC on Aug 14.

The home was advised by the Registry of Societies a few days later to "ensure strict adherence to its constitution" because, as a registered society, it is "governed by its constitution on what activities are permissible and what are not".

The latest advisory from the ELD comes a day after Parliament was dissolved, and the Writ of Election issued. Sept 1 is Nomination Day, while Polling Day is on Sept 11.

The ELD has put up an e-booklet on its website containing, among other things, information on Nomination Day proceedings, and guidelines for supporters of candidates.

For instance, supporters are not allowed to display any placards, flags, or banners of candidates or parties before proceedings end on Nomination Day.

Black-and-white photos of candidates will be included on ballot papers for the first time at this election, to make it easier for voters to identify their choice, ELD said.

Candidates have to hand in their photos by 2pm on Nomination Day for them to be printed on ballot papers or the words "no photo" will be printed over where the photo should appear.

Walter Sim

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on August 27, 2015, with the headline 'Elections Dept sets out rules for civic, professional, business groups'. Print Edition | Subscribe