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LinkAsia | Sep 2
Temperatures are rising in Singapore, as a spat between Chinese and Indian neighbors over the smell of curry threatens to turn the country sour on ...
Singapore is holding its second election in four months. The first vote back in May was to elect a new government. This time, it's to elect a new president. There are a couple of interesting things about this vote. First, all four candidates have the same last name, Tan, which is even more common in Singapore than Smith is in the United States. Second, Singapore's social media has been playing a key role in monitoring and analyzing the presidential campaigns.
2011 will go down as a watershed year in Singapore's political history. Boosted by social media, participation and interests in politics has hit new levels. For example, the blog The Online Citizen, scored a media coup by getting all four presidential candidates to a forum four days before the national broadcaster was due to record its own program. The two-hour forum released on YouTube included an animated exchange between former Deputy Prime Minister Tony Tan and once-opposition member Tan Jee Say, who argued that the four-decade-old Internal Security Act, which allows for detention without trial, had outlived its usefulness.
Tan Jee Say:
The ISA has been used on political opponents and those who are on the other political side of the law. So the history is such that it has been used for political purposes.
I think this has to be fair. When one says it is used on political opponents, I think this is a very serious charge. You must be able to back it up.
Tan Jee Say:
Well, the people who have been detained have opposed the government, that's what I am saying.
Candidates only have nine days to make an impact on voters. One blogger, Jen Tai, said this was very unsatisfactory and described the presidential election as "almost farcical." "The election is fast becoming a case of voting for who we object to the least, rather than who we really want," she wrote. One thing's for sure, though, the next president will bear the name Tan. But will it be former long-time member of Parliament and medical doctor Tan Cheng Bock? Former insurance cooperative CEO Tan Kin Lian? Former civil servant Tan Jee Say, who recently contested in the May parliamentary election and lost? Or will it be former ruling party stalwart, Dr. Tony Tan? Dr. Tan certainly has the experience, having served in major cabinet posts like education, trade and industry, health, and defense in his 26 years of politics. But one issue threatens to overshadow his candidacy. Bloggers have highlighted that his son managed to postpone serving his compulsory military service for 12 years while studying medicine and doing research in the United States. Others have turned their attention on former high-flying, civil-servant-turned-opposition candidate Tan Jee Say, criticizing his motives, "The President's job is to safeguard the reserve, not check on the PAP. These are two different tasks, please get it right," said someone going by the nick "Regular@SAF." The two other candidates have had long ties with the ruling People's Action Party, which may turn off voters seeking a more independent-minded president. This year's presidential election comes just three months after the parliamentary vote, where the PAP secured a win of 60 percent. That's landslide in most countries. However, it was the party's worst performance since independence. Therefore, some voter unhappiness could spill over into these elections, which is for a largely ceremonial head of state. Either way, with four candidates in the race, it is bound to be a close call. In Singapore, I'm Laura Miller for LinkAsia.