Look online to see Singapore’s Opposition election gains

SINGAPORE • In an election that took place largely on social media, the most-tweeted-about hashtags during Singapore’s recent polls reflected the breakthrough made by the main Opposition party as it won a record number of seats in Parliament.

Twitter, Facebook, Instagram and Reddit are just some of the platforms where both campaigning, and heated debate, took place as social-distancing restrictions meant crowded rallies were off the table. There were nearly 200,000 conversations on Twitter about the city-state’s elections between the start of hustings on June 30 and July 13, according to a spokeswoman for the social media giant.

Among the top five hashtags that got the most traction were those linked to popular Opposition figures Jamus Lim and Raeesah Khan, and the voting district where they and two others defeated the ruling party.

A mega-thread to discuss the election results live on Reddit attracted more than 10,000 comments compared to around a hundred in a similar thread for the 2015 election, as the Singapore subreddit featuring memes and issues about Covid-19 into a hotbed of political debate.

Politicians experimented with a range of formats including live dialogues to reach out to voters. Tan Cheng Bock, the oldest parliamentary candidate at 80, took to Instagram to woo young followers, with his account attracting over 70,000, suggesting the change from traditional campaigning may be here to stay.

In the end, the Opposition Workers’ Party made its biggest-ever gains against the ruling People’s Action Party, with its four-member team clinching the district popular with couples and young families. Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong has acknowledged how social media has led to increased demands for diverse voices among young voters.

“The world has changed, attitudes have changed,” Lee said in an online discussion on July 8. “Younger people have a different perspective and it’s a perspective which is valid and which we have to take into account.”

Netizens rallied around Raeesah, with the hashtag #IStand- WithRaeesah trending on Twitter, when she had to publicly apologise for what she said was “insensitive” remarks made on her Facebook account in 2018 and earlier this year. #JamusLim1stWin also trended after the associate professor of economics impressed netizens in his first live debate with seasoned political heavyweights.

Overall, there were more than 1.6 million reactions on Facebook posts by 16 major local politicians during the elections, according to data compiled by social media analytics firm NapoleonCat. — Bloomberg