Singapore — This year’s elections are indeed unique from previous years, of course because of Covid-19. As a first time voter, I’ve spent some time wondering — am I or will I be missing out on anything given that this year’s elections are so different from the norm?
If I could be honest, the only thing I can think of would be not being able to experience an on the ground rally. I’ve heard so many stories from my relatives and non-first time voting friends about their experiences attending rallies — being charmed by their favourite politicians, experience the crowd go wild and more. It’s something that I won’t be able to experience this time, given how the online sphere is the main battleground for this election. But, this does not mean much to me since I still have many years to experience such a rally and also because I am much more of an indoor person anyway.
Some on the ground outreach has not been cancelled, and I’ve managed to catch some of the candidates making their way through food centres and markets. I’ve been able to see how the public react to both familiar and unfamiliar candidates and “get the feel of the ground” as some of them might say. So, this makes up for the in-person rallies that I’ll miss this time.
Going back to the online battleground, I actually feel quite relieved that the rallies and other physical political activities, are readily available on so many different platforms. For one, the online battleground has pushed the political parties to be much more creative in terms of their outreach to voters, which is great. This is especially so since a new generation of voters will be taking part in the elections this year. Coming up with different webinars, well thought-out videos, utilising platforms like Twitter and Instagram, is very much needed if the politicians wish to gain the likes of younger voters such as myself. The webinars and videos online, produced by all the different political parties, have done a great job in providing the information that I need in order to make an informed decision on July 10.
I also enjoy watching the political debates, e-rallies and such in the comfort of my own home, away from the sweaty crowd. Moreover, it’s exciting to see netizens comment real-time on the live videos (especially because perhaps the power of anonymity has emboldened some to leave really controversial and bold statements online).
So, I personally feel that there’s nothing much I am missing out on.
However, I have come to realise that I am privileged enough to not miss out on the happenings that are online. But this is not the same for others.
I’ve asked some of the candidates standing in the coming elections what are some of the biggest challenges the Covid-19 election has posed for them. Many have said that the online battleground is challenging because the connection between themselves and the residents has been undermined with diminished physical interaction due to the virus. The intimacy that was present in previous elections is definitely lost in the coming one.
I can imagine that, similarly, this decreased interaction has also affected some residents as well. Especially so for those who do not have the means to access information and videos of their politicians online. In-person rallies were great. It’s also a great way for anyone to hear in detail, what various parties have to offer to better the lives of citizens.
Pushing the battleground online means that those who are less privileged and technologically savvy are that ones who miss out the most. Not all of us are blessed to have access to the Internet, laptops and smartphones to have such information at our finger-tips. With so much detail being released by the political parties online, such as going in-depth about what plans they have for the nation or specific constituencies, there is a specific demographic of Singaporeans who are missing out on such important information.
This Covid-19 election has placed unprecedented challenges for both the political parties and citizens. As much as it is definitely important for political parties to utilise their creative juices on the online platform, I urge the politicians to also keep those who might be left out from the online sphere in their minds. In fact, it’s important to be even more creative to reach out to these individuals and to ensure that they too are able to gain as much information and knowledge they need to make an informed decision, like their fellow citizens. /TISG