Cooling-off Day

by Lee, Meiyu

The first Cooling-off Day was implemented for Singapore’s general election in 2011. No campaigning activities are allowed on Cooling-off Day, which is designated as the day before polling day to give voters time to think rationally and reflect on the issues that were raised during the campaigning period.

Debates in Parliament

The idea of a “cooling-off” period during elections was first announced by Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong in November 2009. The proposal resulted from another set of election changes that was to increase the maximum number of Non-Constituency Members of Parliament from six to nine. This move was expected to intensify the contest during elections, and thus a “cooling-off” period was recommended to calm emotions for rational voting, and to lower the risk of public disorder.1 However, the proposal was rejected unanimously by opposition party leaders, who argued that the ruling political party would have an unfair advantage by disguising political messages in mass media as “news” items from the government. Those who opposed the bill also contended that the worry of public disorder was unfounded, as Singaporeans were rational voters and were not prone to causing public disorder during opposition rallies.2    

Rules on Cooling-off Day
After vigorous debating, the Cooling-off Day proposal was approved in Parliament on 27 April 2010. Amendments were made to both the Parliamentary Elections Act and Presidential Elections Act, which introduced Cooling-off Day on the eve of Polling Day, and the minimum period between Nomination Day and Polling Day was to be increased by one day as a result of the introduction of Cooling-off Day. The prohibition of election advertising on Polling Day was also extended to include Cooling-off Day.3 

On Cooling-off Day, the following are disallowed:

  • publication and display of election advertising, including those on the internet, that were not already published or displayed before the start of Cooling-off Day;
  • canvassing, visiting homes and workplaces of voters in connection with the election;
  • wearing, carrying and displaying political insignia or propaganda; and
  • holding of election meetings.4


The following are allowed:

  • television broadcasts by presidential candidates;
  • party political broadcasts on television;
  • election-related news published in newspapers or broadcast on radio or television;
  • approved posters and banners that were lawfully displayed before the start of Cooling-off Day;
  • other election advertising, including those on the Internet, that were displayed or published before Cooling-off Day;
  • distribution or promotion of the sale of any book if its publication was scheduled independent of the election, but the book must not be sold at less than its commercial value;
  • transmission of personal political views by any individual to another (non-commercial) using the telephone, internet or other electronic means; and
  • wearing of party badges by candidates.5


Developments

The first Cooling-off Day fell on 6 May 2011 for the general election held the following day.6 Violation of the rules on Cooling-off Day resulted in either a fine of up to S$1,000 or a jail term of up to 12 months, or both.7 

The implementation of Cooling-off Day inspired local poet and playwright Alfian Sa’at to write a play, called Cooling-off Day, about the excitement surrounding the 2011 general election. It was nominated for Best Original Script at the 12th Life! Theatre Awards.8 



Author
Lee Meiyu




References
1. Singapore. Parliament. Parliamentary debates: Official report. (2010, April 27). Parliamentary Elections (Amendment) Bill (Vol. 87). Singapore: [s.n.], cols. 235-236. (Call no.: RSING 328.5957 SIN); Singapore. Parliament. Parliamentary debates: Official report. (2010, April 26). Constitution of the Republic of Singapore (Amendment Bill) (Vol. 87). Singapore: [s.n.], cols. 58. (Call no.: RSING 328.5957 SIN); Chua, C. H. (2009, December 1). 24 hours to cool off before Polling Day. The Straits Times, p. 1. Retrieved from NewspaperSG.
2.
 Singapore. Parliament. Parliamentary debates: Official report. (2010, April 27). Parliamentary Elections (Amendment) Bill (Vol. 87). Singapore: [s.n.], cols. 251-253. (Call no.: RSING 328.5957 SIN); Kor, K. B. (2009, December 2). Opposition: PAP will have unfair edge. The Straits Times, p. 4. Retrieved from NewspaperSG.
3.
 Singapore. Parliament. Parliamentary debates: Official report. (2010, April 27). Parliamentary Elections (Amendment) Bill (Vol. 87). Singapore: [s.n.], cols. 235, 237. (Call no.: RSING 328.5957 SIN); Singapore. Parliament. Parliamentary debates: Official report. (2010, April 27). Presidential Elections (Amendment) Bill (Vol. 87). Singapore: [s.n.], col. 296. (Call no.: RSING 328.5957 SIN); Cooling-off day sparks heated debate. (2010, April 28). The Straits Times, p. 1. Retrieved from NewspaperSG.
4.
 Singapore. Parliament. Parliamentary debates: Official report. (2010, April 27). Parliamentary Elections (Amendment) Bill (Vol. 87). Singapore: [s.n.], cols. 236–238. (Call no.: RSING 328.5957 SIN); Singapore. Parliament. Parliamentary debates: Official report. (2010, April 27). Presidential Elections (Amendment) Bill (Vol. 87). Singapore: [s.n.], col. 296–297. (Call no.: RSING 328.5957 SIN); Changes to political system take effect. (2010, July 1). The Straits Times, p. 9. Retrieved from NewspaperSG.
5.
 Singapore. Parliament. Parliamentary debates: Official report. (2010, April 27). Parliamentary Elections (Amendment) Bill (Vol. 87). Singapore: [s.n.], cols. 237–238. (Call no.: RSING 328.5957 SIN); Singapore. Parliament. Parliamentary debates: Official report. (2010, April 27). Presidential Elections (Amendment) Bill (Vol. 87). Singapore: [s.n.], cols. 296–297. (Call no.: RSING 328.5957 SIN); Changes to political system take effect. (2010, July 1). The Straits Times, p. 9. Retrieved from NewspaperSG.
6.
 Lee, U.W. (2011, April 20). GE on May 7: several ‘firsts’ despite dates déjà vu. The Business Times, p. 1. Retrieved from NewspaperSG.
7. Attorney-General’s Chamber. (2011, April 15). The schedule. Retrieved from Singapore Statutes Online website: https://sso.agc.gov.sg/SL/218-RG3?DocDate=20150820&ViewType=Advance&Phrase=parliamentary+elections+act&WiAl=1#Sc-; Chong, Z. L. (2017, February 17). Four people receive police warning over online posts during Bukit Batok by-election. The Straits Times. Retrieved from Factiva via NLB’s eResources website: http://eresources.nlb.gov.sg/
8. Tan, C. (2012, Mach 15). Best in word play. The Straits Times, p. 4. Retrieved from NewspaperSG.



The information in this article is valid as at 9 September 2019 and correct as far as we are able to ascertain from our sources. It is not intended to be an exhaustive or complete history of the subject. Please contact the Library for further reading materials on the topic.

Subject
Election law--Singapore
Elections
Politics and Government
Political campaigns--Law and legislation--Singapore