Police to organisers: No getai shows with election rallies

Residents catching a getai show near Yishun MRT station in 2011. The police reminder to keep getai shows and election campaigning activities separate, together with other recent developments, has reinforced talk that the election could be held next m
Residents catching a getai show near Yishun MRT station in 2011. The police reminder to keep getai shows and election campaigning activities separate, together with other recent developments, has reinforced talk that the election could be held next month.ST FILE PHOTO

The police have reminded organisers of getai performances that they are forbidden from holding such shows before, during or after election rallies.

The warning, issued yesterday on the first day of the month-long Hungry Ghost or Seventh Month Festival, follows media reports that several getai organisers have been approached by political parties that want to organise events with them to take advantage of the massive crowds that these outdoor stage performances attract.

The police statement, seen as yet another sign that the election could be called within weeks, said: "Election campaigning activities and Seventh Month Festival events should be kept separate."

Political parties are given at least nine days to campaign. This period starts on Nomination Day and ends on the eve of Cooling-Off Day, when no campaigning is allowed.

Yesterday's police statement, along with other recent developments like the People's Action Party starting to unveil its electoral candidates, has reinforced talk that the election could be held next month.

The polling date cited most often by political observers, including sociologist Tan Ern Ser and political scientist Bilveer Singh, is Sept 12. If so, it will coincide with the tail end of the Hungry Ghost Festival, which ends on Sept 12.

For that to happen, the Writ of Election needs to be issued by Aug 26, three days after the National Day Rally. Nomination Day would then take place on Sept 1. It is also possible that the schedule could be moved to Sept 13 to avoid having polling day fall within the Hungry Ghost Festival.

The Sept 5 date now seems unlikely as the writ would have to be issued by next Tuesday.

The police said yesterday that organisers should "ensure that no speeches intended to canvass support for election candidates and/or political parties are delivered".

The law also does not allow other forms of stage performances and entertainment to be held with election rallies, they added.

Yesterday's police statement also gave updated rules for the rallies.

Outdoor rallies should be held only at designated sites, and the police assured that sufficient sites will be made available.

The way the sites are allotted will also be changed to the ballot method, which was used in the 2012 and 2013 by-elections in Hougang and Punggol East.

This method will be coupled with a "give way" rule which requires parties allotted a site to give way to other applicants for the same site at the same time slot the next day.

It will ensure that contesting parties and independent candidates have more opportunities to use their preferred sites on preferred dates, the police said.

In the 2011 election, rally sites were allotted on a first come, first served basis.

Yet another change is how rally sites will be allotted in the last two to three nights of the campaign period in popular areas.

The police will use the "block ballot" method, in which parties can apply for one highly popular site for just one night in that block of two to three nights.

On Counting Night, the allocation of outdoor assembly centre sites will be done by ballot.

More details on the application and allocation process for both rally sites and assembly centre sites will be released after the issue of the Writ of Election, which sets the election process in motion.

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on August 15, 2015, with the headline 'Police to organisers: No getai shows with election rallies'. Print Edition | Subscribe