Online alternative politics in Singapore – Thoughts on Gomez’s thesis…

26 Sep

In James Gomez’s paper, “Democracy and Elections: The Impact of Online Politics in Singapore”, the writer concluded that ‘the current electoral system in Singapore is impervious to the impact of the internet’.

In his summary, he surmised that while the Internet is a niche platform for distributing alternative political content, it was not able to compete with the mainstream media’s ‘dominant position’. This is despite the growing Internet penetration rate which is at 71% in 2006.

His second main finding revealed that alternative political content has made no major impact on the PAP hegemony in the electoral arena for the past three general elections of 1997, 2001 and 2006:

… in terms of the number of parliamentary seats contested (both single and group seats) and the number of candidates fielded by opposition parties there is no correlation between these numbers, use of internet by opposition parties and the availability of alternative online political content during and in-between elections. Similarly, there is no correlation between use of the internet by opposition parties and the availability of alternative online content and the percentage of votes cast for opposition parties…

Such findings might feel like a wet blanket to the Opposition in Singapore though Gomez’s analysis should not be taken as the final word on the subject.

With perhaps the exception of Singapore Democratic Party which has sought to utilise the Internet for a wide range of purposes (for example to communicate their policies, alternative news, upcoming events, online discussions) which is updated on a daily basis,  the other political parties have been lacklustre in using the online medium to communicate their views. The popularity of the SDP website, according to the party’s chairman, John Tan, has resulted in crashes because of the surge in number of visitors. Implicit in the SDP’s website popularity is the suggestion of a hunger for alternative political content in Singapore, desperately awaiting other political pundits to harness.

Restricting his study to only studying the relationship between online political content to election results, Gomez is correct to point out that the widely- held myth that the internet  is a ‘democracy enabler’ is wishful thinking. After all, the media plays only a certain restrictive role and influence during the election period, what more for online content.

It is almost too silly to spell it out. The internet should be seen for what it is (and what it is not) – a medium with the potential to communicate, harness support, and restricted activities (such as garnering petitions). Opposition politicians and activists wishing to gain seats in Parliament or contribute to policy changes and contemporary dialogue need to be firmly aware that it is the grassroot work that matters. This will include holding public forums, meetings and protests.


3 Responses to “Online alternative politics in Singapore – Thoughts on Gomez’s thesis…”

  1. Wat tok u? September 28, 2008 at 6:14 pm #

    It’s the sheer repression which prevents alternative………..nothing to do with Internet or dominant media.

  2. mammon rules September 29, 2008 at 5:18 pm #

    money talks. the opposition failure to amass support is because they don’t know how to amass big money like our beloved gahmen. heck, even the churches now a days know to talk big about money. the more prosperity that’s in your talk, the bigger the support base. that’s what people want, that’s what you ought to deliver.

    learn from the churches. be subtle about riches and soon, the oppositions will too see long queue at their doorsteps.

  3. patriot September 29, 2008 at 6:09 pm #

    Unless and until the Oppositions built themselves strong foundations for their parties with sufficient calibre core members that are active in winning the citizens’ favours by coming out with convincing manifesto, the Internet no matter how widely used, is not going to help those who do not help themselves.

    The Local Non-politician Netizens by and large have been very sympathetic, even biased towards the Oppositions, but I see very little appreciation from them(Oppositions).

    The Oppositions must also show they are hardworking on the ground and not just go about non-chalantly with their political activities and objectives.


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