SINGAPORE: On Tuesday (22 Aug), three presidential candidates successfully submitted their nomination papers, marking the commencement of the campaign period for the 2023 Presidential Election. Singaporeans are poised to exercise their voting rights on 1 September.
The trio of contenders includes Mr. Ng Kok Song, the former GIC investment chief at 75; Mr. Tharman Shanmugaratnam, a former senior minister of the People’s Action Party at 66; and Mr. Tan Kin Lian, the former NTUC Income chief, also at 75.
With their nominations accepted, they are now authorized to officially launch their campaigns, heralding the commencement of an enthralling race for Singapore’s highest office. Posters featuring Mr Tharman and Tan Kin Lian have been prominently displayed in various neighborhoods across Singapore.
However, Mr Tan’s daughter, Su Ling, has voiced her criticism of the election campaigning system.
She suggests that Mr. Tharman, benefiting from his background in the public sector, had the advantage of ample time for meticulous preparation due to his prior knowledge of qualification and likely victory, supported by a robust political machinery.
“He just has to come out with a ripe pineapple and charm everyone on day 1,” said Ms Tan.
In contrast, Su Ling said other truly independent candidates only have a mere 3 days between qualification confirmation and campaign initiation to organize a comprehensive islandwide outreach.
“The team could not even print any campaign posters in advance because the election materials were not approved until very late, not to mention the hefty costs involved in any rush jobs. ”
Additionally, the question of where to display campaign materials became a predicament as approvals were required, such as seeking NEA consent for banners or posters in hawker centers.
“If you put something up without approval or in a way they don’t like, you may be asked to take it down within an hour or risk a fine, ” she further elaborated the difficulties independent candidates face.
“I know that online attacks in any political campaign is a given and I accept that.”
While acknowledging the inevitability of online attacks during political campaigns, Su Ling emphasized the burdensome nature of simultaneously combating these attacks and navigating the logistical intricacies of an “extremely unfair system of campaigning” within a tight 10-day window.
Despite her frustrations, Ms Tan conceded that complaining would be futile, acknowledging her and her father’s awareness of the uneven playing field entering the election.
Nonetheless, she pledged to persist in the fight, even in the face of potential mockery. Their objective remains providing Singaporeans the choice to “stand with someone truly independent of the ruling party.”
Mr Tharman’s posters seen on display following Nomination Day
In a swift display of campaign activity, posters and banners featuring Mr Tharman were observed adorning various locations from the afternoon of Tuesday, shortly after the successful nomination of the presidential candidates.
— Karen M. Fu (@karen_fu) August 22, 2023
In notable contrast, a post by Lim Tean, the leader of the People’s Voice party showcasing “The Very First Tan Kin Lian Poster Put Up For PE 2023” only appeared at 7.12pm on the same day.
The other Presidential election candidate Ng Kok Song announced on Wednesday that he would eschew the use of posters and banners in his campaign, citing environmental concerns.
However, he has spent at least S$60k advertising his posts on Instagram and Facebook since creating his accounts on 17 July, just days before announcing his bid for the presidency on 19 July.
“Every two Tharman’s posters, you will see one Tan Kin Lian”
During a media interview on Wednesday (23 Aug), Mr Tan stated that his team has extensively displayed posters, estimating they might rival half of Mr Tharman’s count.
“But for every two of Mr Tharman’s (posters), you will see one of Tan Kin Lian, and many people will come and say: Tan Kin Lian’s (posters) looks better,” he added his hope that voters will notice his campaigning posters.
When probed about the significance of placing his first poster in Hougang, a Workers’ Party stronghold, Mr. Tan indirectly addressed the query.
He deferred responsibility for poster management, expressing confidence in its execution, saying, “I trust that he’s done a good job.”
Interestingly, a YouTube user remarked on a Mothership’s video, noting the stark ratio of posters along Upper Serangoon Road, with one of Tan Kin Lian’s for every five of Mr Tharman’s, requiring a drive to Boon Keng for more visibility.
“But honestly, Ng Kok Song just decided to not put poster and campaign in another style. Don’t need to bemoan what poster, you do you, you sound incredibly negative.”
Meanwhile, another YouTube user emphasized that the winning candidate would be the one capable of shaking a million hands, while those who merely display their hand or face in posters risk losing both the race and their deposit.
Straits Times reported that when asked if he thinks he has an advantage over the other candidates in terms of putting up banners and posters for his campaign, Mr Tharman said: “The reality is that many people don’t have access to social media. We wanted to show that the presidential elections are important.”
“Posters are necessary in our electoral landscape, and I don’t want the presidential elections to seem unimportant. I do want to reach out to everyone in our heartlands, and we have put great effort into mobilising volunteers,” he added.
He stressed that sustainability was a key factor from the start. He had proposed and insisted on different ways to make the usage of banners and posters more sustainable, such as the type of paper and ink used, and recycling plans.
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