May 7, 2011

From Nomination to Polling Day: A Short Election Campaign

WP Finally Rally at Serangoon Stadium
Emotions and temperature ran high at Serangoon Stadium on the last day of the election campaign, no wonder a cooling off day was mandated.

Today is cooling off day, a time for us to simmer down, a time for us to use our head to decide the party we will vote for. It will not be an easy decision for many; consider this: voters in GRCs have to evaluate between 8 to 12 candidates from both parties in a short period of 10 days, to assess their track records, to dissect their arguments, to buy their promises and be charmed. Our vote is sacred, it is a secret weapon; the burden is therefore on us not to misfire.

In 10 days, we are told to make a very important decision, one that can potentially cost us a few ministers. This post is non-political and I am not complaining about  the usual carrots and gerrymandering - these issues have been flogged to death by the Opposition. My point is that if you examine the political history of Singapore, the change from a single candidature to a team and from a small team to big team see no increase in the number of days for election campaigning. Since the whole nation is going to the polls save for one GRC, this is no laughing matter. Emotions may run high and fueled by populist and anti-government sentiments, voters may not think rationally and repent regret their decision after the polls.

I prepared this in Microsoft Excel after gathering the relevant data from this website. Since the incumbent dominated parliament in 1959, election campaign period has been exceedingly short, often the shortest permissible by law. The 1968 elections had the longest period for election campaigning at 56 days, I wonder why?

According to the Parliamentary Elections Act, polling day must take place "not earlier than the 10th day, and not later than the 56th day" after  publication of the notice of contested elections. Since the eve of polling day is cooling off day and election campaigning is prohibited, that leaves candidates only nine days for their campaign activities.

From the table, it seems like the short election campaign period is a legacy from the early days. Indeed, the strategy was first used in the 1963 General Elections, a snap election to seek a fresh mandate from the people just 5 days after merger with Malaysia. Parties were given only 9 days for election campaigning (down from 35 in previous elections), the shortest period permissible by law. The opposition simply had very little time to react and regroup (you can read what happened here). It was, in its own way, a watershed election. If you are interested in Singapore's early political history, this book is a must-read.

Happy Polling Day!


me said...

no other words..happy vote! :p

Icemoon said...

Kind of sad that it is over. Another 5 years?