The months of April and May thrust Singapore into a general election frenzy, with the highest number of opposition parties filing for contest against the incumbent government.
For the benefit of those who are unaware of Singapore political scene, you can get up to speed here. In a nutshell, one party has governed Singapore for the past 40 years, occupying 85 out of 87 parliamentary seats.
Although the incumbent government has been responsible for the economic success, world-class reputation and slums to cosmopolitan city transformation – there were pertinent bread and butter issues that affected the people. Public discontentment had been bubbling over; skyrocketing property prices, the influx of expatriates, income disparity, rising living costs, and so forth.
Cue the entrance of Social Media channels like Facebook and YouTube. While social media has been utilized before for political campaigning (Obama’s 2008 election campaign, Julia Gillard’s 2010 campaign, and currently, the Thai democratic), it was an unprecedented movement in Singapore.
It’s no surprise then that there was a flood of social media activity with an internet penetration rate of 72.4% in Singapore. Unlike mainstream media channels, social media avenues were burning up with videos of rally speeches and content that was not subjected to censorship. Everyone had something to say. This uprising of unedited content was something never before.
The environment was awash in a sea of change, with politicians reaching out via Facebook pages, political blog commentaries and fiercely opinionated tweets and status updates. Once a traditionally predictable, stifled political environment was now a vibrant and well-debated political awakening.
A noticeable trend amongst the incumbent party was their slight hesitancy and late entry into social media, preferring traditional media. In contrast, opposition parties harnessed social media to their advantage. Facebook walls were open for public input and dialogue, instant updates with party manifestos, rally locations, and excerpts from speeches. At one point, a standout candidate from the opposition party, Nicole Seah, overtook founding father Lee Kuan Yew in the number of Facebook likes.
Being a nation known for limited self-expression and freedom of speech, this sudden opportunity to outpour our gripes, complaints and opinions resulted in unimaginable online activity.
Creative agencies started to churn out interactive websites, getting in on the movement and tracking this phenomenon.
SG Party Time
Created by Tribal DDB and Brandtology, this interactive platform hosted a roundup of social media conversation encircling the different political parties in Singapore. From percentage of positive versus negative comments, to a list of popular twitter hashtags.
The following site created by JamiQ and Swarm offered a General Election social media map, tracking social media stats by segregated districts, links to Facebook pages of politicians and foursquare updates on rallies. Basically, a gamut of social media buzz and tactics – making politics kinda cool.
For the record, history was made on May 8th – with six out of 87 parliamentary seats being awarded to the opposition. An occurrence never seen before, possibly due to several factors: the political maturity of the masses, a need for an opposing voice in parliament to provide checks and balances, or the empowerment brought about by social media? You decide.