The Singapore Democratic Party put up a Facebook post on Saturday, June 27, questioning the legality of displaying the ruling People’s Action Party (PAP) flags in Marine Parade before the start of the General Election campaigning period.The post by SDP reproduced an email, signed by the party's vice-chairman John Tan, that was sent to the Elections Department Singapore (ELD).
In the email, SDP asked ELD to confirm if it is “against election rules or laws” to display a party's flags in public places before Nomination Day, which is on June 30.
Tan also asked ELD “to clarify the legal status of displaying party's flags in public places” given that the GE campaigning has not started yet.
He questioned ELD what would be done if PAP was found to be in violation of rules in displaying its flags.
He wrote: “If there is no violation, please let me know, too, as my party is planning to do likewise.”
In response to media queries, ELD said the rules relating to the display of posters and banners under the Parliamentary Elections (Election Advertising) Regulations do not apply at this time.
This was so as the period of campaigning by political parties for the July 10 GE Polling Day has not started.
As a result, the display of posters and banners currently is still governed by other legislation, such as the Town Councils Act.
The Parliamentary Elections Act only governs the display of posters and banners during the campaign period.
This period is defined as beginning with the close of the nomination proceedings on June 30 and ending with the start of the eve of polling day on July 9.
An ELD spokesperson said: “Once the campaign period starts, the display of posters and banners must be subject to a permit that is issued by the Returning Officer.”
PAP volunteer response
Probing further, an unnamed Marine Parade PAP branch office volunteer told Today that the flags were put up “within the branch perimeters”.
This practice, the volunteer claimed, has been going on for the past 20 to 30 years, with additional flags to be added to the 11 existing ones along Marine Terrace.
The volunteer also told Today the PAP flags were put up "as part of National Day celebrations" and are up for a longer period this year because "National Day celebrations are extended".
This rationale alluded to an announcement by the Ministry of Culture, Community and Youth (MCCY) on April 25, that allowed all organisations and households to display the national flag with immediate effect until Sept. 30.
However, the MCCY announcement was only for national flags.
This was part of the national response “to rally Singaporeans” amid the Covid-19 pandemic.
The usual time frame to display the national flag in other years was only from July 1 to Sept. 30.
Top photos via SDP