The social media challenge in Singapore

Excerpted from Marwaan Macan-Marker, who cites analysis saying new technologies aided the opposition in the last election:

“Weeks after a watershed general election in Singapore, the influential role played by social media to dramatically transform political debate in this affluent city- state continues to reverberate through cyberspace.

“Social Media in Singapore Politics: It’s Serious Business Folks!” was the headline of an analysis that appeared this week on theonlinecitizen, a popular website featuring commentary challenging the official narrative of the southeast Asian country’s ruling Peoples’ Action Party (PAP) and the mainstream media – all of which are pro-government mouthpieces.

Views that appeared on and plus critical commentary on the Internet “sparked a new way of thinking for Singapore, especially in the political arena,” read the article, one of many assessments following the May 7 poll. “The Internet became a platform for Singaporeans to not only vent their frustrations at the PAP, but also to share political opinion and connect with other like- minded individuals.”

It echoed views expressed in a blog by Catherine Lim, the country’s most renowned female novelist, who included the Internet and social media among the “confluences of forces” behind the “people’s anger [that] broke out in [the 2011 general election] and not earlier.”

“The rise of a younger, more articulate electorate, the power of the Internet and the social media… allowed free discussion on usually censored topics,” wrote Lim of a country that has been under the authoritarian grip of the PAP since it gained self-rule from British colonisation in 1959.

The views on cyberspace challenging the one-party state were rare till now, note analysts, given the climate of fear that had plagued the country. The PAP, from the days of Singapore’s founding father Lee Kwan Yew, was notorious for suing and jailing its critics as it proceeded to transform a malaria-infested backwater port town into a glittering city with a developed country’s standard of living.

“This election was a landmark because it marks the country’s transition out of fear,” said James Gomez, executive director of Singaporeans for Democracy, a local think tank. “Young people, in particular, those who voted for the first time, have become politically socialised through the social media and are very much part of this transition.”

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