One of the surest signs of an impending general election in Singapore has arrived: just a few days after a routine polling district gazette was released, the Electoral Boundaries Review Committee has released their report of electoral boundaries.
As Singaporeans (and maybe the rest of the world) scrutinise this report and Singapore’s past few years leading up to one of the most hotly-anticipated elections ever, five questions have emerged which will hopefully gain answers as the electoral hustlings kick into full swing:
1) Is this the widely-anticipated social media elections?
In 2011, social media was still at its infancy, with many still figuring out how the medium was going to affect the polls. While the year’s polls were widely quoted as a watershed one, this year’s hustings will likely be a play-by-play on the new battlefield of the political parties.
With social media giants Facebook and Twitter setting base in Singapore, the influence of social media is far greater than ever. Expect parties to rumble on the Internet, and for voters to make clear who their allegiance lies with online as well. Stories may break online and new discoveries may keep PR teams of political parties on their toes. For instance, the chicken rice fiasco of 2011:
Combine this with the string of voices that have broken out in recent times – Roy Ngerng, Amos Yee, Bertha Henson, Gilbert Goh, just to name a few – and it is this cacophony of new leaders in the social media realm (yes, do not discount Xiaxue’s political coverage) that will be difficult to ignore.
Even in the media scene today, the new crop of media entities cannot be ignored. Mothership, Must Share News, The Independent Singapore, Inconvenient Questions, Six-Six News, The Middle Ground and even Popspoken (buay paiseh, hor) will add eyes, ears and new perspectives to an election season that used to be mostly played out on big titles.
The shift on social media is apparent: in a Blackbox survey, about half of Singaporeans surveyed under 40 years old said that social media had played a role in shaping their views and opinions on political and social issues.
2) The power of the youth: a potential swing vote?
2011’s elections may have been an election too early, but the rise of social media has become the conduit for more participation on topics that concern the country, especially from the youth who form a significant part of social media users. (The youth are classically defined as those under 35 years of age.)
In 2011, 25% of the 2.2 million voters were aged 35 and below. 10% of the electorate were first time voters. With more youths who are now of age joining this pool of voters, the shift in the voting pie towards the young is increasing.
The power of the youth was analysed by associate professor Trisha Lin in a study of more than 440 youths across 2,000 Singaporeans. It was found that young Singaporeans wrote more on new media than other Singaporeans, but more youths had voted for the People’s Action Party (PAP) than opposition. However, the percentage of youths who voted for the opposition is more than Singaporeans as a whole who had voted for the opposition.
Even among age groups in the youth, the shift is apparent – while 8.8% of voters from 30-34 would vote for the opposition, 18.8% of voters from 21-24 would.
However, it may be difficult to shake off long-standing political apathy among the young. The New Paper’s survey on 1,000 youth voters in Mar 2011 revealed that 40% of voters would not vote if necessary, and 25% feel “politically alienated” in their say in government policies. It takes two hands to clap, and in this respect, it would be wise for all eyes to be on the citizens of tomorrow.
3) Can Tin Pei Ling stand alone in MacPherson?
Photo: Bernard Oh/Flickr
We’ll let the Member of Parliament of the MacPherson ward off the hook: ever since she stepped into office even as Goh Chok Tong publicly decried her participation, she has shown gumption to answer to her resident’s queries. Yes, even when it came to sanitary pads.
As she quit her job in Ernst & Young to focus on serving her residents, the 31-year-old has soon gotten her bag-toting days behind her and even garnered praise from the prime minister himself last August for her good work in the MacPherson area. It is not known if she will stand for the newly-carved out MacPherson Single Member Constituency (SMC), but for what it’s worth, her shot at a second term is much better than her first.
4) A Tanjong Pagar… without Lee Kuan Yew?
The only constituency to not have been contested in the last general elections after a dramatic last-minute document fracas, Tanjong Pagar GRC now stands a real chance of being contested after having been uncontested since the 1991 general elections.
The passing of the late Lee Kuan Yew now leaves the Tanjong Pagar-Tiong Bahru ward empty. Most importantly, it leaves the GRC in the hands of new blood as a new set of candidates vie for the hearts and minds of the electorate.
However, the jury is out if minister Chan Chun Sing, after having been parachuted into the Buona Vista ward previously helmed by Lim Swee Say, will continue to stay in Tanjong Pagar GRC and possibly lead the other PAP candidates there. If so, they will face stiff competition possibly from the SingFirst party, after its leader Tan Jee Say walked the ground in November last year.
5) The return of Jalan Besar GRC
Photo: blue_quartz/Flickr via CC BY-SA 2.0
One of Singapore’s hotly-contested Group Representation Constituencies is back: Jalan Besar GRC is up for grabs once again after being dissolved in the 2011 general elections. Ever since its formation in 1988, it has been contested in every single election but with wide margins in poll winnings.
For Edwin Tong who currently helms the Jalan Besar ward, the biggest test lies ahead for the Allen & Gledhill partner if he has the mandate to stay his ground if he is up to be contested in the ward. The National Solidarity Party (NSP), which has been walking the ground there, seems ripe for the pickings. If 2011 was any indication, the incumbent would be well-prepared to take on the ward again but so has the NSP’s long-standing ties there.
Featured photo: Abdul Rahman/Flickr via CC BY 2.0