Opposition parties bolster efforts on social media

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With rallies and home visits unlikely to feature if the next general election is to take place during the pandemic, here are looking for alternative methods to get their message across to voters.

While all parties said and instant messaging apps will be a prominent part of their campaigns, they are also looking for ways to reach the non-Internet crowd.

This includes having volunteers distribute fliers door to door without knocking on any of them and blasting their message from a car with a speaker attached to its roof.

National Solidarity Party secretary-general Spencer Ng said that the party is preparing to deliver or mail its campaign materials to voters. Party members are also committed to observing social distancing should home visits be allowed, he added.

The Progress Singapore Party (PSP), meanwhile, has already started leaving little packs – containing a mask, a flier and a pen – on doorsteps.

Singapore Democratic Alliance (SDA) chairman Desmond Lim said that party supporters are fitting speakers to the tops of their cars. The party’s slogan will be among the messages that the speakers will broadcast during the campaign period, he added.

The use of such devices are illegal outside of the campaign period.

The Elections Department last week urged candidates and political parties to plan for campaigning methods that minimise large group gatherings, given that the Republic is likely to be fighting the Covid-19 crisis for the long haul.

The department has yet to release guidelines on how campaigning can be conducted due to the volatile nature of Covid-19, but it has committed to giving political parties and candidates as much lead time as possible, to prepare for their campaigning activities.

It is considering other modes of campaigning – such as additional television broadcast time – which will allow parties and candidates to convey their messages to the public.

The next general election must be held by April 14 next year, though speculation is rife that Singapore might head to the polls as soon as next month.

For now, nearly all opposition parties said they have focused on boosting their capabilities to do video broadcasts and reach voters online.

Some, like the Workers’ Party (WP) and the Singapore Democratic Party (SDP), are hoping to get people to sign up to their channels on WhatsApp and Telegram.

For now, opposition parties have focused on boosting their capabilities to do video broadcasts and reach voters online. Some, like the Workers’ Party and Singapore Democratic Party, are hoping to get people to sign up to their channels on WhatsApp and Telegram.

An SDP spokesman said: “We will explore all non-mainstream platforms… to cast our net wider and spread our messages further.”

He added: “We (had) Twitter, YouTube and Instagram accounts before GE2015.”

SDP also uses Facebook and WhatsApp for outreach.

Last Monday, the WP posted a reminder on Facebook that official messages are posted on its social media sites such as Twitter, Instagram and Telegram.

The party also posted a survey link on its Facebook page, asking Singaporeans for their take on policies.

PSP, meanwhile, has held several sessions on Facebook and via videoconferencing service Zoom to introduce party members.

During the sessions, it also conducts live polls and quizzes, and winners are given party merchandise.
PSP has a public Telegram channel and uses Instagram to reply to questions posed to the party by the public.

SDA’s Mr Lim and Singapore People’s Party chairman Jose Raymond have both also set up small studios to film video messages in their offices.

Last Wednesday, Mr Raymond posted on Facebook a photo of his studio, showing an area set up with a desk and a backdrop with the party’s logo, as well as studio lighting and microphones.

“Online broadcast? I’m all set,” he wrote on Facebook.

But Mr Raymond told The Straits Times: “Nothing beats meeting people face to face in the course of elections campaigning.”

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