Road to GE: How active have Singapore political parties been on the ground?
Updated: Feb 10
By Christalle Tay
PHOTO: WORKERS' PARTY FACEBOOK PAGE
In the second of a four-part series on how political parties in Singapore are gearing up for the next General Election, Christalle examines how the ruling and opposition parties are engaging the public on the ground.
Read part 1 on Singapore political party websites.
Read part 3 on policy stances taken by Singapore political parties.
Read part 4 on how Singapore political parties are structured.
Politician sightings have been on the rise since June with political parties ramping up their walkabouts and house visits. The Workers’ Party (WP) and People’s Voice Party (PVP) — have been especially diligent in walking the ground in the past year, according to their Facebook posts.
Facebook is the go-to online platform for the parties to share photographs from its walkabout and house visit. Only PVP has published the dates of its planned house visits on its website, but they were last updated in May. People’s Power Party (PPP) and Democratic Progressive Party (DPP) did not post about such activities on Facebook, which is their only active platform for public outreach.
The chart below details the number of walkabouts and house visits each party has conducted between 1 November 2018 and 10 November 2019, based on posts on the parties' Facebook accounts. PAP does not publish walkabout notices on its party Facebook page.
ILLUSTRATION: ETHAN TAY/ COMPILED BY: CHRISTALLE TAY
Parties that contested the last elections were seen mostly campaigning in their former battlegrounds. The Singapore Democratic Party (SDP) announced early in February its plans to return to the same wards it contested in the 2015 General Election: Holland-Bukit Timah GRC, Marsiling-Yew Tee GRC, Bukit Batok SMC, Bukit Panjang SMC and Yuhua SMC.
The new addition to SDP, Benjamin Pwee — the secretary-general of DPP till his resignation this February – staked his claim on Yuhua SMC in early November.
Other parties — WP, Singapore People’s Party (SPP), National Solidarity Party (NSP) and SingFirst — might not be reviving their previous electoral game plans. MacPherson SMC, the subject of a three-cornered fight last election, appears to have been abandoned by WP and NSP. WP has instead ventured into Ang Mo Kio GRC — where it last contested for in 2006 — and Tampines GRC. NSP seems to have its eye on Nee Soon SMC and Yuhua SMC, where it has had walkabouts thrice in Nee Soon and twice in Yuhua — compared with other wards where NSP has been once.
TABLE: CHRISTALLE TAY
Progress Singapore Party (PSP), on the other hand, has covered all 29 constituencies with island-wide walkabouts, which it has carried out twice, making it hard to assess where its game plan might focus on.
Some parties have conducted other types of physical outreach to the public. SDP has been especially active in holding events, since the official launch of its campaign on 23 February, which was open to the public. It also held public events for the launch of its policies and manifesto, and a pre-election rally.
Before PSP had its launch, which was open to the public, it held meet-the-people sessions which were attended by members of the public who had signed up on Facebook. In September, PSP organised a free talk on poverty in Singapore given by economist Yeoh Lam Keong.
NSP has held its own meet-the-people sessions, which it called “kopitalk”. The sessions, which started in June this year, were meant to be monthly meet-ups with residents over coffee at a coffeeshop in Tampines. The last kopitalk was held in July.
Perhaps, political parties do a lot more than their social media offerings show. PAP politicians have a leg up in terms of physical outreach because they can use the facilities at community centres and officiate at grassroots events organised by the People's Association. WP also has five bases in Aljunied-Hougang Town council — located in Hougang, Bedok and Serangoon.
Most of the remaining opposition parties, though without municipal facilities, have their own headquarters which have sometimes been used for outreach. SDP's headquarters in Ang Mo Kio, for example, has been used for its book launches. NSP has its headquarters in Serangoon, Reform Party in Chinatown, SPP in Bishan, and PSP in late January unveiled its new headquarters in Bukit Timah. Even PKMS — which has become part of an Opposition alliance, Singapore Democratic Alliance — still has its building in Eunos.
Update: On 12 Jan 2020, PSP returned to the Ayer Rajah divison of West Coast GRC — what used to be Dr Tan's former homeground — for its first door-to-door visit. Speaking to reporters at the walkabout, he said they were starting to identify places they wanted to “have [their] footprint”.