Wednesday, December 02, 2009

Papmandering alert: SPH will brief Singaporeans on the right way to vote on the day before polling day. Every other person: Shut up and Sit Down!

The PAP is at it again: Papmandering - a form of gerrymandering unique to Singapore.

As I defined it in an earlier blog article: Papmandering: 'The art/science of redrawing electoral boundaries, electoral laws and/or the constitution for the purpose of maintaining overwhelming control of Parliament through the mechanics of clearly articulated arguments in favour of an inclusive form of democracy'.

The Prime Minister has chosen to announce, curiously from a faraway place, that a 'cooling off' day would be incorporated into the election process. This, it appears, is to prevent irrational voting. We the voters might be swayed by uplifting, exciting but misleading rhetoric and we might vote against the PAP erroneously. We the voters might be whipped into a frenzy of anger against the PAP and might commit the grave error of delivering a 'freak' election result.

Looks like the PAP has decided that the SPH in its infinite wisdom would be the sole source of information for us all. SPH would 'analyse' the campaign, 'summarise' the issues and present a profile/caricature of all the candidates in the elections. There will be no campaigning on the day before elections. But, will blogosphere remain silent?

The PM has left the Internet as a grey area for now. We would discover once the draft legislation is released. I wouldn't rule out the possibility that they may get so kiasu that they would prevent all unauthorised commentary on the elections either online or through other means. The other real possibility is that recognising that the internet does not possess a sufficient outreach to influence voters, they would take a hands-off approach to bloggers.

Any law that seeks to prevent commentary on elections (where such commentary is not pursuing a party objective but intended to be informative or insightful or even plainy supportive of a political party) would be undermining Article 14 of our Constitution, which provides for the Freedom of Speech. This freedom may be limited under the following circumstances:

Art 14(2) Parliament may by law impose —
(a) on the rights conferred by clause (1) (a), such restrictions as it considers necessary or expedient in the interest of the security of Singapore or any part thereof, friendly relations with other countries, public order or morality and restrictions designed to protect the privileges of Parliament or to provide against contempt of court, defamation or incitement to any offence;

It would be interesting to see the justification raised in parliament for such a limitation on free speech. The usual public order and security rant may not be viable. A clever argument could be constructed along the lines of 'the privileges of Parliament' vis a vis the electoral system and that might become the basis the restriction.

I don't know. I'm just speculating.

On the assumption that they do restrict online discussion on the day before polling day, the interesting question is: Will blogosphere remain silent?