Thursday, April 28, 2011

Social media - will it translate to opposition victory?

There is much evidence that the opposition is engaging more on social media than the incumbent party. In fact, with the controlled media in Singapore, many have turned to the Internet for a more balanced view of things. There is much anger among the people as well. Many felt that the PAP is censoring comments and not reply to them online.

I believe in previous elections, the turnout was much higher for the opposition as well, and for some cases, the PAP won.

In 1988, the PAP targeted Francis Seow, a former Solicitor-General of Singapore and President of the Law Society. Mr Seow was ‘exposed’ as a serial womaniser and tax cheat, and was also accused of being a ‘foreign agent’ who was out to destabilise Singapore. Mr Seow’s WP team in Eunos GRC won 49.1% of the votes before he was hounded out of the country on trumped-up charges.

n 1991, the WP’s Jufrie Mahmood, who also stood in Eunos GRC, attracted flak for being a ‘Malay chauvinist’.

In 1997, the WP’s Tang Liang Hong, who was running with then-party leader J B Jeyaretnam in Cheng San GRC, was accused of being an ‘anti-Christian Chinese chauvinist’. Prime Minister Goh Chok Tong turned the battle for Cheng San into a personal battle, saying that voters were making a choice between him and Mr Tang, even though Mr Goh was not a candidate for the constituency.

Eventually, Mr Goh and 11 other PAP leaders, including Mr Lee Kuan Yew, Mr Lee Hsien Loong, Mr Teo Chee Hean and Dr Tony Tan, sued Mr Tang for defamation on the grounds that he said that the allegations of racism were “lies”. In doing so, they argued, he was alleging that they were “liars” and therefore unfit for office. Unsurprisingly, Mr Tang was ordered to pay millions of dollars in damages to the PAP leaders, and was forced to leave Singapore as a result.

In 2001, Dr Chee Soon Juan, the leader of the Singapore Democratic Party, was the ‘chosen one’. He was sued for defamation by Mr Goh and Mr Lee (Kuan Yew) because he brought up the issue of a clandestine billion-dollar loan to Indonesian President Suharto. Dr Chee was also branded a “heckler” and “street hustler”, and was ordered to pay more than half a million dollars in damages. He was made a bankrupt and has been unable to contest any elections since then.

And in 2006, in an incident that remains fresh in the memory of many Singaporeans, the WP’s James Gomez was accused of dishonesty and “criminal intimidation” because of a discrepancy with regards to the filing of his minority candidate form. The “Gomez Saga” dominated the agenda in the lead-up to polling day, with little attention given to the actual debate concerning national policy. Dr Gomez was detained by the police for questioning the day after the election, in which his WP team clinched 44% of the vote in Aljunied GRC.


PAP Rally


WP Rally


There is indeed more people interested in politics today than it was 5 - 10 years ago, and the once politically apathetic youth are participating and sharing information as well.

I have no doubt that if it is an online poll, the Opposition would win, but with the myriad conditions and rules placed, a lot of the online community, whom are Singaporeans overseas are not eligible to vote as they have not registered. (Its not even nomination day, and they were already not eligible.)

For the case of Obama, it was not only on online chatter, there was much activity on the ground and the ground coordination was very well organized and online supporters/students are activated to raise issues with their friends and families, and share what they have learned. This is not seen in Singapore yet.

So is online social media and large turnouts enough?

Only time will tell...

-- Robin Low


1 comment:

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