By Rebecca Metteo, Managing Editor (Operations)
On 23 June (Tuesday), 4 pm, Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong announced in a Facebook live video that he has advised the President to dissolve the parliament and issue the Writ of Election.
Decked out in his signature pink shirt, PM Lee expressed confidence that the elections can be held in a “proper and safe” manner. Previously, the Elections Department has issued various rules on campaigning amidst the COVID-19 safe distancing measures. Such as: no campaigning in groups of more than five people, maintaining a one-meter distance, no shaking of hands and more.
For GE2020, the battle shifts online and many political parties have brought it to their social media platforms as a prelude to their campaign message and introduce new faces to the citizens. Yet, these online campaign efforts are bound to have different effects, depending on their presentation style and target audience. At least to me, some stood out more.
As speculations of elections have been hovering over the past few months, political parties have been preparing for this year’s special election - one that puts the party’s social media capability to test. There are 11 political parties for GE2020 and the political parties have been introducing new candidates by batches.
People’s Action Party
Progress Singapore Party
Singapore Democratic Party
Singapore Democratic Alliance
People’s Power Party
National Solidarity Party
Democratic Progressive Party
Red Dot United (New)
For an informational series to understand each of this party better, see TODAYonline GE2020 series. For example, the Progress Singapore Party.
The Press-Conference Style
The People’s Action Party (PAP) introduced a slate of eight candidates on 24 June (Wednesday) in two parts, first, part was hosted by Assistant Secretary-General Heng Swee Keat and the second session by Vice-Chairman Masagos Zulkifli.
Over three days, the party announced that they will be introducing a total of 23 candidates for GE2020.
Utilising the standard Press-Conference style, the PAP video started with a PAP logo back-drop, a speaking mic on the table, a glass of water near-by and each new candidate puts on their best smile for their first-ever self-introduction to the people.
Listening through all the first eight candidates, a few of them certainly struck me. The first one was definitely Ms Nadia Ahmad Samdin, who is an Associate Director at TSMP Law Corporation. From her video speech, I noticed her limited reference to any of her paper notes, she appeared confident, friendly and ready to share details about herself. In her short speech of 5 minutes and 13 seconds, Ms Samdin had spoken in three languages - English, Malay and Chinese. Yes, Chinese - which I have to say was quite a good attempt.
Most of the candidates spoke in two languages, English and their Mother Tongue, some also said a few words in dialect such as Cantonese. One such candidate was Mr Don Wee Boon Hong who is Chartered Accountant by-training and has been in the Banking Sector for 22 years.
Many of the candidates also shared their personal story and humble beginnings such as growing up in rental flats, as a product of the meritocratic system in Singapore and are keen to contribute back to society in ways they can. They are also active volunteers in the community.
One personal story that struck me was the one by Ms Hany Soh Hui Bin, who is a lawyer. She shared the story of her and her grandmother in Mandarin, who gave her the confidence to study hard and eventually achieved her dream of becoming a lawyer.
While it has been a rather conventional presentation of the candidates, in a press-conference style, some candidates stood out by injecting their personal style in their self-introduction.
The Cinematic Style
At 4:15 pm on Tuesday, the same day PM Lee made the announcement, the Workers’ Party (WP) released a trailer video. The 15-second video was catchy and fresh; it featured 12 of the Workers’ Party members including some new faces.
The video was simple, a close up smiling mid-shot of each of them and no one said anything. Coupled with the mysterious-like sound effect, it indeed got me hooked. The video started with Ms Sylvia Lim, the Chairman of WP, and ended off with the newly appointed secretary-general, Mr Pritam Singh. Shuffling between scenes, there are also other members such as Ms Nicole Seah, Ms Lee Li Lian, Mr Leon Perera and more.
On Wednesday (24 June), WP released the full video. It started with a play of black and white screen effect to provide an analogy of what WP serves to do, with Mr Pritam Singh opening the video with:
“I think for the worker’s party not everything is black and white. When it’s too bright it becomes too blinding for anyone to see properly. Too dark, it will be hard to look for a way around. What we hope to achieve, is to create contrast. A balance, so that you can see clearly the road ahead.”
The screen effect was also in sync with the play in concept of brightness and darkness, eventually a contrast. Impactful. Afterwards, as per the trailer video, the members sat down against the backdrop of the WP logo.
In the 6 minute and 19 seconds video, the video tugged at my heartstrings and brought me on an emotional ride. The video was well planned, a combination of visual and sound presentation, stringing responses from each member for each question and an impactful ending.
First, they shared about their memorable moments living in Singapore as an individual, followed by their reasons for joining the WP, during which the sound effects were rather fast-paced. They also showed footage on their work in the community, including meet-the-people sessions, house visits and coffee shop walks. Building up to the challenges they faced and motivations, the video gradually transits to a mellow sound effect, whereby they were heartened by the support given by Singaporeans whom they have crossed path with.
Ending off with a grand mission kind-of sound effect, the members reiterated their hope in offering an alternative voice and more representations in the politics of Singapore, finally, with each member telling you his/her name.
After the release of the short video, WP also took to a press conference to introduce their new candidates, who have been featured in the video, in batches.
As a mass communications graduate, I was intrigued by the video. While I may not remember exactly everything the members said, I remember how the video made me feel. Across the screen, I could feel the passion burning in each and every of the members in the video.
The Breakfast Style
Meeting for breakfast dressed in a party T-shirt has been a norm for many years in campaigning for elections. On Wednesday (24 June), Progress Singapore Party (PSP), led by Dr Tan Cheng Bock, met with a group of its members for breakfast at the Tiong Bahru Market in the early morning.
What was striking was that Dr Tan took the opportunity to present the card to Lee Hsien Yang and welcomed him into the party. Afterwhich, PSP moved to its Facebook page and uploaded a photo and video by Lee Hsien Yang. In a video of less than 2 minutes and against a simple white background, Lee shared three thoughts on the politics of Singapore and expressed his support for Dr Tan. The video also appealed for funds to support PSP’s election campaign.
While the video is refreshing, and most parties will also be having their breakfast meetings and walkabouts, I hope to see how various physical campaigning methods would be brought and connected to social media.
Many politicians, Singapore and abroad, have taken it to the social media not specific to the election period. Some politicians in Singapore, have established an outstanding social media presence way before the campaign and some are chasing up.
Speaker of Parliament, Mr Tan Chuan Jin has garnered 51.6K followers on Instagram and has been sharing about his life and love for traditional doughnuts. He has also been very open about some light banters, including the most recent internet trend of editing male politicians into females.
Mr Tan even captioned “New faces of the @papsingapore. Since we are introducing new candidates… Was hoping they wouldn’t do one for me… but they did…” ends with an emoji and hashtag.
In this example, Mr Tan has provided a fun approach but still reminding followers about what is going on - the introduction of new candidates. While sharing about his life, he has also utilized the platform to provide some policy clarifications.
Some politicians, including from the opposition, have also taken it to the social media to share their life, community work and current issues.
Certainly, these individual politicians who have been working hard to maintain their social media presence will have some advantage in this online election campaign.
As for who or which party will stand out more in the official online election campaign, it might be too early to say, but I believe each of their styles would appeal to different groups of people. It is, however, worth a look into each of their media representation styles, which often complements the image of the party and previous style of physical election campaigns.
The official first day of the electoral campaign starts only on 30 June, where the rallying effects over social media will be more visible.
Rebecca is the Managing Editor (Operations) for The Convergence. She finds joy in the company of good books, movies and her beloved dog. An early riser, you can find her awake at dawn but rarely past midnight!