Political finance


How are political parties and politicians funded in your jurisdiction?

The PDA regulates funding for political associations, candidates and election agents. The PDA provides for the appointment of a registrar of political donations (the registrar) and assistant registrars, by notification in the Gazette.

Donations may be accepted only from permissible donors. A permissible donor is defined as:

  • an individual who is a citizen of Singapore and is not less than 21 years of age;
  • a Singapore-controlled company that carries on business wholly or mainly in Singapore; or
  • in relation to a candidate, any political party he or she is standing for at an election (section 2).

According to section 3, a donation in relation to a candidate or political association includes the following:

[A]ny gift of money or other property, any money spent in paying any expenses incurred, directly or indirectly, by the candidate, election agent, political association, as the case may be or any person so authorised by them, any money lent to the candidate or his election agent or political association otherwise than on commercial terms, the provision otherwise than on commercial terms of any property, services or facilities (including the services of any person) or the provision of any sponsorship in relation to the candidate, which is given, spent, lent or provided (whether before or after he becomes a candidate) for the purposes of the candidate’s election or in relation to the political association.

A donation further includes any subscription or other fee paid for affiliation to, or membership of, the political association. Furthermore, any money or other property that is transferred to a candidate, election agent or political association for a consideration that is less than the value of the money or (as the case may be) the market value of the property shall be regarded as constituting a gift to the candidate, election agent or political association, as the case may be.

Registration of interests

Must parties and politicians register or otherwise declare their interests? What interests, other than travel, hospitality and gifts, must be declared?

The PDA mandates political associations and candidates to file an annual donation report with the registrar with all requisite details of donations including the identity of the donors (sections 12 and 18). Candidates are also required to make a declaration, in the prescribed form, that no other donations have been accepted during the relevant period, no donation has been accepted from other than permissible donors and no anonymous donations in excess of the prescribed sum have been accepted (section 18). Every donation that is accepted during the relevant period must be recorded:

  • if it is a single donation of not less than S$10,000 or the prescribed sum; or
  • if, when it is added to any other donation from the same permissible donor, the aggregate amount of the donations is not less than S$10,000.

Upon receipt of the donation report and declaration, the registrar will issue a political donation certificate to the person concerned, stating compliance. The PDA also mandates the filing of a post-election donation report and declaration by the candidate and his or her election agent or principal election agent, as the case may be.

Under the PDA, the value of any donation that is a gift to a candidate, election agent or political association is the market value of the property in question.

Contributions to political parties and officials

Are political contributions or other disbursements to parties and political officials limited or regulated? How?

As mentioned in question 18, political contributions to associations, candidates and election agents are regulated by the PDA. In terms of this Act, a donation is ‘accepted’ by a candidate or his or her election agent if it is received and retained by the candidate or his or her election agent for the purpose of the candidate’s election; or by a political association if it is received and retained by the political association for its use and benefit (section 6).

Donations may be accepted from permissible donors only (sections 8 and 14). No donation should be accepted if the identity of the person offering the donation cannot be ascertained. However, during one financial year for political associations and during the relevant period for a candidate or election agent, anonymous donations less than a total sum of S$5,000, or such other prescribed sum, may be accepted.

If a political association receives any donation that it is prohibited from accepting, or that the association, candidate or election agent has decided that he or she should for any reason refuse, then the donation must be returned in accordance with the PDA (sections 9 and 15).

If any anonymous donation is made and it is prohibited under the PDA, the whole donation must be returned, either to the person (other than the donor) who transmitted the donation or to the financial institution, whose facility was used to transmit the donation. In all other cases, the whole donation must be sent to the registrar, who will, in turn, pay it into the Consolidated Fund (sections 10 and 16).

If any donation that is prohibited under the PDA is made and has been accepted by the association, candidate or election agent, a district court may, on the application of the public prosecutor, order the forfeiture of an amount equal to the value of the donation. Any amount forfeited by an order under the PDA shall be paid into the Consolidated Fund (sections 11 and 17).

Parties and political officials would also fall under the Prevention of Corruption Act (Chapter 241 1993 Rev Ed) (PCA). See questions 23 and 24.

Sources of funding for political campaigns

Describe how political campaigns for legislative positions and executive offices are financed.

The PDA regulates donations to candidates, election agents and political associations, and mandates the filing of an annual donation report with the registrar.

The PEA limits the expenses that may be incurred by a candidate or his or her election agent at an election. Expenses in excess of the maximum (in relation to a candidate in an election in any GRC - an amount equal to S$4 for each elector on the register for that constituency divided by the number of candidates in each group nominated for that election; or in relation to any other candidate - an amount equal to S$4 for each elector on the register, as specified in the Third Schedule, PEA) are considered to be an illegal practice (section 69).

Similarly, under the Presidential Elections Act, expenses in excess of the permissible limit (S$600,000 or an amount equal to 30 cents for each elector on the register, whichever is greater), would be considered an illegal practice (section 50).

The PEA and the Presidential Elections Act mandate declaration and publication of election expenses. Within 31 days of the date of publication of the result of an election in the Gazette, the election agent or principal election agent, as the case may be, of every candidate, is required to transmit a return consisting of detailed statements with respect to the election expenses of the candidate, to the returning officer. The return should consist of detailed statements regarding every donation accepted by the election agent or by the candidate for the purpose of expenses incurred or to be incurred on account of the election, naming every person from whom the donation may have been received (section 74, PEA and section 56, Presidential Elections Act). Failure to comply with the declaration requirement constitutes an illegal practice.

The PEA and the Presidential Elections Act mandate the publication of the return of election expenses (section 75, PEA and section 57, Presidential Elections Act). The returning officer shall affix a notice displaying the date on which the return and statements were received, and of the time and place at which they can be inspected, in some conspicuous place in his or her office. The notice will also be published in the Gazette. The returning officer is also required to permit any person to inspect and make extracts of the returns and statements or obtain copies of any part of the returns, on payment of a prescribed fee, at all reasonable times during six months after the publication of the notice in the Gazette.

Lobbyist participation in fundraising and electioneering

Describe whether registration as a lobbyist triggers any special restrictions or disclosure requirements with respect to candidate fundraising.

Singapore does not have a system of registration for lobbyists.

Independent expenditure and coordination

How is parallel political campaigning independent of a candidate or party regulated?

Political campaigning in Singapore is regulated by the PEA, the Presidential Elections Act, Parliamentary Elections (Election Advertising) Regulations and the Presidential Elections (Election Advertising) Regulations (the Regulations).

All election advertising in a print document, during the period beginning with the day the writ of election is issued for an election and ending with the start of the polling day, has to bear on its face, and if more than one side of printed matter, on the first and the last page of the document, the names and addresses of its printer, publisher and the person for whom or at whose direction the election advertising is published (section 61(c)(i), PEA). Section 78A of the PEA and section 60 AA of the Presidential Elections Act empower the relevant minister (ie, the Prime Minister) to make regulations for election advertising.

The Regulations prescribe that for non-print advertising, the particulars of any election advertising agency in any website shall be shown conspicuously on:

  • the opening page of the website containing any election advertising; and
  • the page first displayed for every subdirectory of the website if the relevant particulars of the election advertising in the subdirectory are not the same as the first page.

The Regulations prescribe the mode of display of the relevant particulars in election advertisements by electronic transmission, blog post, social networking service, electronic mail, chat-room discussion, text message, multimedia message, etc. Relevant particulars refer to:

  • the name and address of the publisher of the election advertising; and
  • the name and address of every person for whom or at whose direction the election advertising is published.

The Regulations prohibit the display of posters and banners without obtaining a permit to do so from the returning officer. The returning officer shall prescribe the permissible size of posters and banners and determine the maximum number of posters and banners that may be displayed during the campaign period of an election in respect of each candidate or group of candidates in their respective electoral divisions. No poster or banner may be displayed without affixing a stamp issued by the returning officer bearing his or her official mark.

During the campaign period of an election, election advertising through a television broadcast, exhibiting in a place where the public has access or through publication in any newspaper, magazine or periodical, may be carried out only by a person so authorised and acting in accordance with the written directions of the returning officer.

Publication or display of election advertising and canvassing in an electoral division is prohibited on the polling day and on the eve of the polling day (sections 78B and 80, PEA and sections 60A and 62, Presidential Elections Act).