According to the Singapore Constitution, parliamentary elections must be held in Singapore every five years.
Since the previous parliamentary elections took place in September 2015, this means that we will soon see the dissolution of the parliament, which has a maximum term of five years from the first parliamentary session.
With talks about the next parliamentary elections coming up, most political parties are now preparing for their campaigns.
However, Singapore – along with the rest of the world – has been affected by the COVID-19 virus since the beginning of this year. As a result of the increasing number of cases in the daily newspaper, Singapore has taken a number of social distancing measures, including:
- Closure of entertainment offerings such as bars, night clubs, discos, cinemas, theaters
- Groups visiting shopping centers must not exceed 10 people
- Suspension of organized tours in public places such as visits or guided hikes
- Suspension of teaching and enrichment courses in the middle
- Suspension of worship
- Cancellation of events and mass meetings such as conferences, concerts and sporting events
In public places that are still open, Singaporeans who intentionally sit in a permanent place that is marked as unoccupied are also found guilty of a crime under the Infectious Diseases Act.
Political rallies could be held online
With the social distancing measures now fully in place and people urged to stay at home, it is expected that this will affect the way the upcoming elections are conducted.
During the past elections, thousands of Singaporeans have taken part in live campaigns across the island to hear the candidates' debates.
With rallies in Singapore now banned, the upcoming rally may see the various political party rallies being held digitally rather than physical.
The next general election could be a trendsetter, and if campaigns take place online, one of the advantages is that digitally running the rallies may cost less.
How much does a general election cost?
To learn more about the cost of campaigns, we can first take a look at how much the various political parties spent in the last election.
In Singapore, the election is subject to the General Election Law (PEA).
The PEA sets strict limits on how much an election candidate can spend during his or her campaign to create a level playing field and prevent a "monetary policy" in Singapore.
According to the PEA, the maximum spending limit for election costs is currently $ 4 for each voter listed in the voter register.
If the candidate is in a Group Representation Constituency (GRC), the amount is calculated by dividing the total number of registered voters by the number of candidates in the GRC.
At the end of each election, each candidate must report their expenses and submit them to the Singapore Election Ministry. These issues can then be viewed.
According to the electoral department, People's Action Party (PAP) candidates spent $ 5.3 million on the 89 seats they had held in the last election.
In the meantime, the spending of the eight opposition parties who held these seats was $ 1.8 million.
This brings the total campaign expenditure to over $ 7.1 million. In contrast, total campaign spending in 2011 was only $ 5.5 million.
|Total expenditure||$ 5,500,000||$ 7,136,943|
|PAP expenses||N / A||$ 5,315,595|
|Opposition expenditure||N / A||$ 1,790,776|
Source: Election Department via Straits Times
Political parties may spend less on these upcoming general elections
The submitted expense reports showed that the candidates spent most of their budget on logistical items such as posters, banners, stage backgrounds, leaflets, food, and refreshments.
However, in a digital rally format, all of these expenses can flow into more effective digital publicity such as Facebook advertising, which may even be cheaper.
According to the Facebook advertising console, $ 10 can easily reach 640 to 1,900 Singaporeans.
* Post targeting based on general attitudes of people in Singapore between the ages of 18 and 65 for illustration purposes
Compared to a physical rally where other costs such as labor, logistics and promotional materials have dropped, the digital rally can actually be much cheaper.
Online rallies are not only inexpensive, they are also easier to plan and conduct. Election candidates can plan their hands and rallies earlier in a controlled environment than in a physical rally.
However, the potential disadvantage of an online rally is that it is a slight disadvantage for the opposition.
The opposition parties are known to lure a large crowd to their physical rallies, which could change the ground during the nine days of the campaign.
With fewer opportunities for interaction, the opposition will have a major disadvantage as it is the one that has to strengthen the electorate and get people to vote.
This could potentially be the death knell for Tan Cheng Bock's new Progress Singapore Party. Without the chance to represent his case, he will almost certainly lose because the voters had no chance to hear him.
What are your thoughts? Do you think online rallies are feasible and fair?
Selected image source: Chua Chin Hon