Something funny is happening in Singapore. Both the ruling party and the opposition candidates in the Aljunied Group Representation Constituency (GRC) are calling for changes. Pressing for change is Foreign Minister George Yeo himself, who, after two decades in government, now says the ruling People’s Action Party has to be transformed. He is fighting hard to retain Aljunied in the face of a strong opposition Workers’ Party challenge to wrest away the constituency.
The PAP won Aljunied by the smallest of margins among all the GRCs in the 2006 elections. And the opposition there seems as strong as ever from the photos and videos of the Workers’ Party rally last night. The PAP also put up a good show with Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong in attendance. But the Workers’ Party video (see below) was absolutely electrifying. George Yeo also spoke fighting words to rousing cheers, as the videos show. But I like him best in his Facebook video to win over young Singaporeans. He has a way with words.
I am writing this after midnight and looking forward to reading the Straits Times in the morning because it will be carrying an interview with him. Its website reports he said the PAP has to review the way it governs. That’s what he said at the rally last night. He asked the PM for permission to speak up, he said, and the PM told him to speak from the heart.
The opposition supporters are speaking and tweeting freely, too. The press coverage is tilted heavily in favour of the ruling party, according to the non-profit Maruah, which is monitoring the media (see chart below). But the opposition supporters are vocal on social media and their own websites. Facebook has over two million users in Singapore while the Straits Times has a circulation of more than 350,000. So the mainstream media is not the only channel of public opinion.
The PAP will, of course, win these elections like all past elections since 1959. But everyone says the fight will be close, very close, in Aljunied.