S'pore GE: Candidates must guard against foreign interference, stay clear of negative campaigning

A photo from Sept 11, 2015, showing counting assistants pouring out ballots at Bedok Town Secondary School.
A photo from Sept 11, 2015, showing counting assistants pouring out ballots at Bedok Town Secondary School.PHOTO: ST FILE

SINGAPORE - Candidates standing for election will need to help ensure they do not become agents or victims of foreign interference.

Enhancing their understanding of the threat of foreign interference, and being alert to suspicious behaviours and hidden agendas, will help to keep their campaigns free from external meddling, the Elections Department (ELD) said.

In a statement on Thursday (June 18), it said: "The outcome of Singapore elections must be for Singaporeans, and Singaporeans alone, to decide."

The ELD also reiterated that only Singaporeans can take part in the election and campaigning. Singaporeans who want to conduct election activities for a candidate - whether online or offline - must have with them a document that gives them the authority to do so, and signed by the candidate or his election agent.

Attempts by foreign powers to influence an election have been reported in other countries, for instance, the United States presidential election in 2016 and US mid-term elections in 2018, as well as the elections in France and Germany in 2017, and in Italy in 2018.

The Singapore authorities in April issued political parties with advisories on foreign interference and cyber-security risks, and urged them to find out more about what precautions they can take to protect their IT infrastructure, online and social media accounts, and the storage and management of their data.

They were also told to monitor their platforms for suspicious activity and not share posts or tweets from suspicious sources, and to make a police report if they detect or suspect foreign interference in the election, or find that their accounts or systems have been misused or compromised.

In the press briefing on Thursday to issue guidelines on election campaigning, the ELD said that candidates and their authorised representatives should conduct election campaigning in a "responsible and dignified manner that befits the seriousness of the election process".

They should steer away from negative campaigning tactics based on hate and denigration of opposing candidates. It added that candidates must not make false statements, such as unfounded allegations of corruption or commission of criminal offences, or statements that may cause racial or religious tensions or affect social cohesion.