Friday, 18 February 2011

Election Watch Part VI - In Search of the Older Voters and The Impact of Facebook Democracy

The following article is contributed to the Singapore General Election Portal (SGEP). The articles refered to herein can be found in the SGEP.

In Search of the Older Voters and The Impact of Facebook (FB) Democracy
In the last issue of In Focus, we went in search of the Young Voters. In this posting, let’s look at the “older” voters. Many of Singapore’s baby boomers of the 1960s have crossed or will hit age “50” very soon. Uniquely Singapore, quite a lot of these “older” voters had never voted in their life time since attaining eligibility at 21.
In 2001, opposition parties admitted that “younger voters are attracted to the PAP's language of modernity and development, and that it is older voters who feel alienated by Singapore's rapid transformation” [Opposition routs ruling party (In Retrospective) - Nov 2001; 15 Feb 2011 – Resources). Now, some 10 years later; how has the political landscape changed in response to our demographic patterns, particularly with the advance of the new media as a means of information and knowledge sharing?

The older voters had gone through various several economic crises prior to the last 2006 GE when the new PM Lee then garnered a lower % win for the PAP. Since then, has our stellar economic growth in terms of GDP figures delivered fruits while we experience disparaging income inequality and also mid-level income stagnation? Has our economic policy really works? By opening two IRs with casinos, and if the basics of PAP policies do not change, will it ensures a better “quality” of living for all citizens?

In smack contrast, unhappiness is reportedly brewing among many employees at the MBS casino as reported by one of our evening MSM newspaper, as “bonus” was not paid prior to the festive period while expecting them not to take medical leave during the CNY even if they should fall sick, and subjecting them to a penalty system. This is a classic example of “work-life-balance” conflict and “wage and reward” issue. Put bluntly, had old scores been settled even before we address and tackle the new woes, such as the need for a minimum wage system; lesser foreign talents; sustaining our small economy by simply talking about a national productivity boost of 2%? Is it wrong or directionless economic policy? Read “What's wrong with the current Singapore growth model? and “A $60 Billion National Regeneration Plan” [16 Feb 2011 – Blogs]. Also catch up with “SDP's Alternative (Shadow) Budget 2011” [ 11 Feb & 16 Feb 2011 – Political Parties] or follow “TOC Budget Forum - 19 February 2011” [16 Feb 2011 – Events].

These issues are not simply about paying taxpayers’ money to build “infrastructures” as Election carrots which the PAP Govt is simply good at “buying” projects but these are more complex social “software” issues which the PAP Govt seems weakest in resolving and implementing but will try hard to “argue and articulate” on a possible “escape” strategy.

Are younger voters really taken in by “modernity and development”, if the 2 blogs [In Search of the Young Voters; 10 Feb 2011 - Editorials (In Focus) – Archives] we had cited in the last issue is an indication? Quite obviously, the Internet and the new media have played quite a part so far in churning the electorate now for a fairer fight. What remains questionable is therefore the issue of maturity of the younger voters. And will voters simply be taken in again by “modernity and development”?

The older matured voters should be more familiar with the political landscape, especially the 1960s baby-boomers. In the past 10 years they had gone through the “tick-tack-toe” of the ruling PAP’s policies if indeed they were attracted to PAP’s language of “modernity and development”. Read top ex-civil servant Ngiam Tong Dow’s “How to secure our (economic and political) future” [11 Feb 2011 – Articles] for a better appreciation. While the older voters of 2001 might get even more “alienated” now, will the new “older voters” also feel just as frustrated and alienated now, having gone through PAP’s iron-clad political style, not forgetting the rapid increase of permanent residents (PRs) brought in as talents in the last few years. Read Ngiam Tong Dow’s “Dangerous Socio-Political Future”. [“How to secure our future”; 11 Feb 2011 – Articles]

As the God Of Wealth walked high on stilts to distribute "chocolate" candies during the Chinese New Year festive season, this old lady (Bottom Right) sat "alienated" and aimlessly near this exit door at the new MBS IR Resort.
Looking at the “Hard facts on Singapore” [11 Feb 2011 – Articles] compiled by Dr. Foo Lung Sung, will our old voters really feel alienated when they actually cast the vote? Let’s ponder over these to assess what the writer had felt as the “The only truth about LKY's system of Govt. is it leads to us working harder and harder....sometimes for less.”

Will the same old iron-clad political style of the incumbent PAP Govt. still work in today’s fast-paced-Internet-savvy socio-political climate which traverses between the young and old voters?

While the global Chinese community is still in jubilant mood celebrating the auspicious start of Spring Festival 2011 (Lunar New Year), the Egyptians were also in jubilant mood all over Tahrir Square for a different cause [In Tahrir Square, we lost our fears and found ourselves; 13 Feb 2011 – International Media], as the “Crisis in Egypt” [11 Feb 2011 – Articles] ended the “The Day Mubarak Was Driven Out” [12 Feb 2011 – International Media].

“The reality is that Egypt's revolution leaves an unanswered question. If, as the evidence strongly suggests, social networks like Facebook and Twitter were crucial in organising the revolutions in Tunisia and Egypt, what does that mean about the nature of these revolutions and their ability to negotiate with the still strong remnants of the autocratic states left behind?” [Can Egypt's digital revolution unite the country? 13 Feb 2011 – International Media].

Conversely, by looking at “Hard Truths” may not solve the problems of the nature we witnessed in Egypt. Being “Out of Touch, Out of Time” [11 Feb 2011 – International Media] has embedded risks. As we watch the “Middle East braces for more protest after Mubarak resigns” [13 Feb 2011 - International Media, “Pro-democracy rally in Tehran”; 15 Feb 2011 – International Media], how will the social networks embrace our own electoral battles (or vice versa) as the GE draws closer?

After all as this article in Harvard Political Review [Dear Thomas Friedman: Serious In Singapore, But So What?; 14 Feb 2011 – Articles] puts it, Singapore is “the polar opposite to America”. “The whole project of American democracy is to try and limit the state’s power as much as possible”. For Singapore, “the state is leviathan and “intimately involved in directing every sphere of society”. “Singapore’s citizens willingly concede their political power, trusting the state to deliver economic success on their behalf.”

However :-

To have a functioning democracy, you need a functioning civic community. And community is all about the small things. It’s about the incremental increases in trust when you help someone out; the sharing of new ideas with new people; the building of a collective identity. Community helps a democratic society work out its shared values, and through this process, to ratify rules (and rulers) as legitimate. – Harvard Political Review [Facebook Democracy; 14 Feb 2011 – Articles].

Nearer home, we had watched the Malaysian MM (Dr Mahathir Mohamad) slammed back at “lightning” speed at our MM Lee on Hard Truths [Hard Truths about Lee Kuan Yew (1); 12 Feb 2011 – Blog] via his blog posting. In this respect, Dr M is certainly more effective than our MM Lee who had to rely on a group of ST reporters to help him strike his blows in “hard print”, if this “battle of words” indeed could be taken as “The Battle between Two Despots” as described in the Internet.

Meanwhile, Singapore’s opposition had claimed its small “victory through the Internet” when the SDP managed to raise S$20,000 in donations to help its leader CSJ avoid jail [SDP's donation drive for Dr Chee is a mini victory; 19 Feb 2011 – Blogs]. The SDP said, “This is a historical development in that it is the first time that Singaporeans have rallied together to show such encouraging support for an opposition cause…..It is important that we continue to leverage on cyberspace to increase political space in Singapore. This exercise has given civil society and the opposition a gauge on the power of the new media.” Reform Party’s leader, Kenneth Jeyaretnam; also explained in his personal blog “why I paid good money to help keep my political rival out of jail”. [Keep my political rival out of jail; 10 Feb 2011 – Blogs].

“Facebook and Twitter are thus nothing more (and nothing less) than new tools for this older, democratic function: the distribution of information across networks; the communicative action between citizens; the creating of shared meaning. This is the hope that the Internet can bring to a repressed society like Egypt: not the killing of kings in Tahrir, but the building of a civic community once the square’s been emptied out.” [Facebook Democracy; 14 Feb 2011 – Articles].

Nevertheless, it takes a more matured Electorate in order to digest the vast information the social networks can harnessed.

Is FB democracy revolutionary? Will the use of the Internet and social media equivocally help to bridge an old divide between the “older” and “younger” voters, if age of voter indeed has a link to individual political maturity and knowledge? Or will this new media alienate the older voters even more to bias in the favour of the old mainstream media managed by the incumbent PAP Govt? As we quoted the Harvard Political Review above, “To have a functioning democracy, you need a functioning civic community. And community is all about the small things”. In doing such small things, no political giants or even despots could victimize the ordinary citizens. Finally, will this then bring about greater fairness to our “one-man-one-vote” system, even if it had not been tapered by OB markers?

More interesting links to articles are available at SGEP.


  1. Hi just something interesting about the leviathan concept your blog is about.

  2. Hi James


    Beyond what I envisaged but interesting.