Assoc Prof Daniel Goh Pei Siong asked the Prime Minister (a) since the introduction of Cooling-Off Day regulations, how many individuals have been investigated by the Elections Department for the publication of electoral advertising on the Internet for (i) the People's Action Party and (ii) other parties on Cooling-Off Day and Polling Day; (b) how does the Department come to be alerted to these individuals' publications; and (c) what are its priorities in selecting the individuals to be investigated.
Mr Chan Chun Sing (for the Prime Minister): The prohibition of election advertising on Cooling-Off Day and Polling Day allows voters time to step back from the excitement and emotion of campaigning, to reflect on the issues at stake before casting their votes. In assessing whether any breaches have occurred online, the Elections Department (ELD) takes into consideration the intent, reach and impact of the posts published, regardless for whom the posts are made.
In the various elections since the Cooling-Off Day was introduced in 2011, right up to GE2015, the ELD had investigated more than 100 cases involving candidates and supporters from both the ruling and opposition parties for potential breaches of the election advertising law. The approach then was to give warnings in respect of these breaches. However, despite the fact that Cooling-Off Day had been publicised several times, the ELD observed what appeared to be deliberate and serious breaches of the law during the 2016 Bukit Batok By-Election. These posts were published in spite of the advisory that the ELD had issued prior to Cooling-Off Day and a subsequent reminder on Cooling-Off Day against such activities. Given the egregious nature of these breaches, the ELD reported them to the Police for further investigation.
The ELD relies on different sources of information to identify potential breaches. For instance, the ELD monitors candidates’ declared campaigning sites as well as online platforms that regularly engage in discussion, propagation or promotion of political issues. The ELD will also look into feedback or complaints from candidates or members of the public.