The Nine Days is a socialservice.sg podcast covering the 2020 general election in Singapore (#GE2020), through daily five-minute news summaries, conversations with young voters, and interviews with academics and experts.
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Singaporean youth civic and community engagement and political participation under COVID-19 lockdown and during GE2020 – socialservice.sg
In many ways, the battle for Sengkang GRC feels like a microcosm of GE2020.
First, it pits the ruling People’s Action Party against the Workers’ Party, the only opposition party with elected members of parliament. Contesting for Sengkang appears part of WP’s geographical strategy in the eastern parts of Singapore, having branched out from its Hougang SMC stronghold, to Aljunied GRC, and now to East Coast as well as Marine Parade GRCs.
The PAP slate is led by anchor minister Ng Chee Meng. He is leading a GRC for the first time. Previously, he was part of a six-member PAP team in Pasir-Ris-Punggol GRC, led by senior minister Teo Chee Hean.
Therefore, Sengkang will be a continued test of the WP’s electoral strategy. At the same time, as the discourse over the GRC system continues, it will also be a more direct test for the PAP minister and his team.
Second, the WP slate is led by Ms. He Ting Ru, and features Dr. Jamus Lim (this correction was made on July 8th), who has been praised for his excellent debate performance, on the second day of the campaign. His use of the “blank cheque” analogy during the debate has persisted throughout GE2020.
Ms. He leads a younger line-up comprising Dr. Lim, Ms. Raeesah Khan, and Mr. Louis Chua. Their average age is 35 years. On the other hand, the all-male PAP line-up has an average age of 49 years. Besides Mr. Ng, the other candidates are Mr. Lam Pin Min, Mr. Amrin Amin, and Mr. Raymond Lye.
Age might be an important factor in a constituency thought to include a large number of young voters and young families. Under the BTO flat allocation system, many young Singaporeans have been drawn to and settled in the areas of Punggol and Sengkang. The new Sengkang GRC was only formed earlier this year and includes the former SMCs of Punggol East and Sengkang West.
Third, WP’s Dr. Lim and Ms. Khan have amassed a significant online following and have emerged as the most newsworthy candidates this election cycle. For instance, on Day 6 of the campaign, it was also reported that two police reports were lodged against Ms. Khan, and investigations are ongoing.
Finally, it concerns national and local politics. At the national level, the PAP and WP have approached the general election differently. However, in Sengkang, at least in terms of content, the pitches made by the teams were not very different.
At the constituency political broadcast, PAP’s Mr. Ng spoke of the economic and employment challenges presented by the coronavirus pandemic. But he also focused on municipal needs:
Nr. Ng: “We hear also your desire to build Sengkang into a better home for ourselves. If we are elected, the first thing we will do is to form the Sengkang Together Movement to co-develop our Sengkang town together. As part of this, we will set up a new Sengkang Town Council, to better serve your municipal needs.” (1:24 to 1:46)
His team echoed these sentiments. Nationally, the rhetoric centred on crisis and vulnerability. Municipally, they promised new infrastructure and referenced the “kampong spirit”.
Conversely, the WP started with a focus on national issues, such as concerns over jobs and the cost of living. They also began by saying that the WP team is young, includes new parents, and hails from diverse professional backgrounds.
WP’s Dr. Lim called for a re-examination of Singapore’s economic model, but also concluded with a municipal perspective:
Dr. Lim: “We also want to tackle issues that truly matter to the people in Sengkang, relieving bottlenecks in childcare centres, dedicated paths for bicycles and PMDs, and more neighbourhood spaces. We will do so with a new Town Council and this system will draw on the experience of our history in Punggol East, and our management of other Workers’ Party wards, which are just as good, if not better, than those run by the PAP.” (11:05 to 11:39)
Because Thursday is Cooling-Off Day and Friday is Polling Day, you can expect the final, daily summary for Day 9 to be published later this evening, towards the end of Wednesday.
Covering the nine days has been draining at times, but it has also been a lot of fun. I hope you’ll continue supporting socialservice.sg and that you’ll subscribe to our newsletter at tinyletter.com/socialservicesg. What happens between the general elections, I think, is no less important than the elections themselves.