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The Singapore Election 2011 Website

The last week (with the extended Labour Day holidays) was a crazy period for the entire nation. Parliament was dissolved on 19 April and Singapore went into 9 days of national campaigning with six opposition parties fighting against every seat except for Minister Mentor Lee Kwan Yew's Tanjong Pagar ward which was left uncontested. 82 seats in parliament were up for grabs making this year's election the largest opposition fight. A good percentage of Singaporeans awoke from their 'walkover' slumber and were finally able to exercise their freedom to vote. The 9 days leading to polling day was an exciting time and the buzz echoed loud in the social media realm.

The People's Action Party (PAP), ruled Singapore with an iron grip since independence in 1965. In the last election in 2006, when it won 82 of 84 seats, Facebook, YouTube and Twitter were in their infancy.
The power of social media which literally gave birth to the Internet President in the Obama vs. Mccain elections in 2008 spread its influence over to this little red dot. 2 years later, we are ever more connected to media bombarding our mobility devices. There was no stopping the unprecedented use of new media for campaigning.

The new media outlet allowed important issues to be surfaced, discussed and re-emphasized. These concerns included:
1) Highly paid ministers who do not seem to be held accountable for runaway terrorists, floods in our modern urban areas
2) High cost of public housing and transportation
3) Loss of jobs to foreign talents who do not have to perform mandatory national service
4) CPF that is giving negative real interest rate returns

Freedom of speech is something we say we have... but some things are better said in cyberspace. Many spoke behind a pseudo identity and as many oppositions spoke up - fear is what holds us back.

Why did Social Media work this time?
1) “Generation Y” citizens, or those born after 1975, make up one in four voters.
2) 82% of Singapore households had access to the Internet at the end of 2010.
3) 36.3% of people between the ages of 21 and 34 cited the Internet as their top source of local political news compared with 35.3% who preferred newspapers. - Source: Straits Times
4) Singapore's Facebook population of three million is larger than the voter pool of 2.35 million. 1.9 million of them are Facebook users are older than 21.
5) Facebook (17.4 %) is already the third most popular online source for election news and updates in the country – behind Yahoo (48%) and Channel News Asia (23.8%) - Source: Singapore study released by Penn Olson
6) Platform allowed politicians to connect with voters outside of the confines of Singapore’s controlled media.

The power of social media amplified the grievances of the people. The people freely expressed constructive changes, who they loved, who they detest and being very Singaporean... simply complaining.

In a little over a week 24-year-old Singaporean Nicole Seah of the National Solidarity Party (NSP) has gone from unknown advertising agency executive to the national spotlight as the country’s most popular politician online surpassing Minister Mentor Lee Kuan Yew. Seah was fighting for a seat in Marine Parade GRC competing against Senior Minister Goh Cheok Tong. Or perhaps PAP answer to the younger generation but one whom was lack of substance - Tin Pei Ling.

Since Tin Pei Ling's win in the Marine Parade GRC she was spotted in at least 5 Facebook pages ranging from 7,000 likes to 40,000 likes wanting her out of the parliament. Remembering Sarah Palin in Mccain's 2008 campaign, politics and the Internet can be a very unfriendly place. This girl got the entire nation bashing at her. She has a lot to prove.

Comments and "dislikes" to Tin Pei Ling's YouTube videos shot up the roof. PAP later removed the option to comment.

The media bashing on TPL certainly affected the overall votes in the Marine Parade GRC resulting in 43.35% of the votes going to their opponent, National Solidarity Party (NSP).

Many were concerned before the elections if the online sentiment could actually move votes or remain just a platform for one to have an outlet for long suppressed feelings. The impact as the results shown, remains non-challenged. Singaporeans (as LKY know too well) want to rock the boat enough not to capsize it. No one really wants PAP out (at least not now), and we are delighted that we've put a few co-pilots in the cockpit.

There was so much chatter in the virtual world that ingenious social media monitoring dashboards were created to access the overall sentiment.

"Party Time" - Tribal DDB and online monitoring company Brandtology jointly launched a popular destination site that tracks buzz surrounding the 2011 Singapore general elections, giving the public a view of the facts, feelings and conversations being are shared online, in real time—unedited and unadulterated.

The website draws its information from news sites, selected blogs and online conversations. It searches for keywords related to the 2011 Singapore general elections, and automatically assigns a positive or negative sentiment score to each one.

The dashboard presents emotional sentiments for each party and pulls out trending discussions from social media. It is also able to show positive and negative online buzz generated on individual GRCs and SMCs.

Swarm and JamiQ created a visualization chart in late April showing trending topics discussed online, along with the most shared articles circulated on the web. The tracker aggregates news articles and blog posts from Google and Twitter data.

Thoughtbuzz's "onefiveseven", attempts to measure how social media is used in elections based on quantitative data, and has designed a heat map that features the most talked about constituencies across the country. The site also showcases social media profiles of individual political parties and candidates revealing Facebook, Twitter and YouTube data.

Even Google Maps got into action, marking out rally venues.

On results night (or early morning), I was receiving Twitter results HOURS before the television made any official announcement. Multitasking on my computer, I was watching live victory speeches online and monitoring the overall buzz. The mood in cyberspace was electrifying. At the speed broadcast is heading... I am concerned.

Very young people I know (not even of age to vote), were in the thick of all the election action. This interest have ignited a political spark of concern in many of us and will shape the way forward on how we will share our thoughts and communicate our feedback.

Five years is a long time in Internet age and I cannot dare dream of the technological landscape that will support the buzz in the next Singapore Election. The only way to find out... is to live to tell!

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