Singapore GE2020: ELD calls on political parties to follow safe distancing measures, set good example

DPM Heng Swee Keat (left) interacting with members of the public during a walkabout around the New Upper Changi Road area, and SDA president Desmond Lim Bak Chuan distributing leaflets to residents at a coffee shop in Pasir Ris. ST PHOTOS: KEVIN LIM

SINGAPORE - Political parties and candidates are being enlisted to ensure the safety of voters during the hustings, with the Elections Department (ELD) encouraging them to not only keep a safe distance themselves, but also advise their voters to do so.

This means that when voters or supporters become too effusive and the parties are unable to control the crowd, they may want to consider disengaging and leaving the area in the interest of public health, the ELD said on Wednesday (June 24).

A day after the Writ of Election was issued, the ELD detailed how political parties should conduct themselves during nomination proceedings and campaigning, as set out under the Covid-19 (Temporary Measures) (Control Order) Regulations 2020.

Besides the rules on keeping a distance of at least 1m apart from voters and supporters, and limiting walkabouts to groups of no more than five people, it also gave other best practices that political parties should follow, to guard against the spread of the coronavirus.

Candidates should wear masks at all times, except at times when they are eating or drinking at hawker centres, for instance. When not wearing a mask, they should minimise talking to reduce the risk of droplets spreading.

Another instance where they may remove their masks is when they are recording, say a doorstop interview, for only a few minutes, and this is done in places where they can keep a safe distance of at least 1m away from others.

In these situations, all other individuals around the candidate who is speaking should keep their masks on, said the ELD.

But it is best if candidates keep their masks on in these situations, the ELD added.

"This is especially so when in settings where it may be difficult to maintain safe distancing or comply with other safe management measures."

The ELD said candidates cannot remove their masks for taking photos, or solely for talking to others.

Candidates and party volunteers should also keep interactions with the public transient, avoid handshakes, high fives and fist bumps to minimise physical contact, the ELD added.

In addition, they should leave a location when the crowd becomes unmanageable, and ensure that people do not crowd around to collect fliers or election paraphernalia.

The ELD said that as a best practice, candidates should keep their masks on even while speaking onscreen for programmes for broadcast over TV, radio or digital media, such as for a doorstop interview or self-recording.

"This is especially so when in settings where it may be difficult to maintain safe distancing or comply with other safe management measures," it added.

The department also advised candidates to bring around extra masks, adding that misplacing or forgetting to bring masks out is not a reasonable excuse for not wearing one in public.

It also urged members of the public to play their part, by staying at home to watch political broadcasts, and avoid gathering or loitering in the vicinity of nomination centres during nomination proceedings.

Nomination Day falls on June 30 for this election, and nomination proceedings will begin at 11am. The time for accepting nominations will end at 12 noon.

As with previous elections, candidates are required to submit their documents at nomination centres along with their subscribers, which include a proposer, a seconder and between four and eight assentors.

Supporters, who are typically allowed into these nomination centres, will not be able to enter the centres for this election.

But nominated candidates can make thank-you speeches, which will be carried on national TV and its online channels. The authorised representative of an unwell candidate can make the speech on behalf of the candidate.

The ELD also encouraged candidates to use digital services to download the relevant forms they need.

All forms for nomination can be printed from the ELD website to be filled out in hard copy, so candidates do not need to go physically to the department's premises.

The system has also been updated so that candidates can save up to four versions of the documents, as the constituency they may contest in is sometimes not decided until the last minute.

The ELD also encouraged candidates to pay the election deposit of $13,500 per candidate via electronic funds transfer.

In a statement, the ELD said: "All political parties and candidates are strongly encouraged to exercise positive leadership and set a good example to the public, by following these best practices. Political parties and candidates must also follow advice from Safe Distancing Ambassadors and Safe Distancing Enforcement Officers."

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