New campaigning rules for Presidential Election candidates
Changes influenced by last Presidential Election
The Elections Department (ELD) has announced new campaigning rules for this Presidential Election (PE).
Candidates must now make a "statutory declaration" that they understand their role if they become president.
They are also "encouraged" to voluntary undertake to campaign in a manner that is "dignified, decorous and consistent with the President's position..."
The ELD said yesterday: "The President should remain above the political fray. It is not his role to support or oppose the government of the day or to advance his own agenda or policies."
Singapore Management University law don Eugene Tan told The New Paper that the changes had been influenced by the 2011 PE contested by Mr Tan Cheng Bock, Mr Tan Jee Say, Mr Tan Kin Lian, and President Tony Tan Keng Yam, who won with 35.2 per cent of the vote.
He said: "Some candidates were making promises that could not be fulfilled because they were not within the constitutional powers of the presidency.
"(The changes are) to ensure the PE does have the level of dignity and decorum that is appropriate and necessary for an office that is essentially non-partisan."
Three people have indicated they will stand in this PE: marine services firm chairman Farid Khan, 61, former Speaker of Parliament Halimah Yacob, 63, and property company chief executive Salleh Marican, 67.
The ELD also said there will be no designated rally sites this time. Candidates wishing to hold a rally can arrange for a rally site and a police permit on their own.
“Some candidates were making promises that could not be fulfilled because they were not within the constitutional powers of the presidency.
Singapore Management university law don Eugene Tan
Candidates will have two blocks of 10 minutes of free airtime to make their statements across 17 media channels, including four additional radio channels added for this PE.
The first broadcast is set for the day after Nomination Day on Sept 14, and the second on the eve of Cooling-Off Day on Sept 21.
Polling Day will be on Sept 23, if more than one person qualifies to run.
Two 90-minute forums in English featuring the candidates will be broadcast, up from the one in 2011. The first, organised by Singapore Press Holdings, is scheduled for Sept 16, and the second, by Mediacorp, for Sept 19.
Candidates can also campaign using the Internet and films approved by the Info-communications Media Development Authority (IMDA).
Live recordings of election activities online do not have to be submitted as long as they do not "distort, dramatise, sensationalise or mislead viewers".
Internet platforms that candidates can use include Facebook, Instagram and Snapchat, but they must be declared to the Returning Officer before use.
Halimah on staying independent: It's always been the people first
The people have always come before party colours for presidential hopeful Halimah Yacob, who said at a press conference yesterday to unveil her campaign slogan that her close ties to the ruling party will not affect her ability to act independently.
The long-time People's Action Party MP, who left her posts earlier this month to run in the Presidential Election, said: "Whatever I do, it must always be the people first."
"And if, as a candidate, at any time I feel that I am not able to be independent, I would not offer myself," she added.
Madam Halimah was speaking at the NTUC Centre where she announced her slogan, "Do Good, Do Together", and introduced some members of her campaign team. She also fielded questions from reporters.
Since she announced her presidential bid, she has sought to convince Singaporeans that her past political affiliations will not compromise her independence. Pointing to her long years in public service - she spent more than two decades in the labour movement before joining politics in 2001 - she said she has always placed the interests of the people first.
She cited former president Ong Teng Cheong as a PAP politician-turned-president who did not always agree with the Government and established for himself the reputation of being "the people's president".
"We have to look at ourselves and ask, who are we serving? I have asked myself that question and I know where my loyalty lies. My loyalty lies with Singapore and Singaporeans, and nothing else," she said, adding that she too has disagreed with the Government.
Singaporeans will vote in the first presidential election reserved for Malay candidates on Sept 23, if more than one person qualifies to run for the position.
Madam Halimah is the only one among the three aspiring candidates who automatically qualifies, having served as Speaker of Parliament for more than three years.
Whether the other two qualify will depend on the discretion of the Presidential Elections Committee.
Madam Halimah is expected to submit her application forms to run in the election today.
She hopes a president elected through a reserved election would be seen as someone who represents all Singaporeans.
While Singapore has had success in promoting harmony among the races, she said there was still a way to go before race becomes a non-issue.
"I do hope that in future we may not need a reserved election... but I think the process is still a work in progress. And I hope this is how we will look at this reserved election," she said.