Saturday, August 27, 2011

Presidential Election 2011: Close of polls

Polling stations for the Presidential Election have just closed.

Results of today's poll would prove or disprove the value of online opinion polls such as the ones posted regularly by Yahoo Singapore on hot topics du jour.

If real world matches virtual world, campaign strategists from all interest groups would likely sit up and take notice.

If there's a disjoint, then it would show that sentiments expressed on the Internet do not necessarily reflect the opinions of the so-called silent majority. The impact of such a result on hearts and minds strategies would be significant because they are likely to desensitise the system against Internet chatter.

Prior to the 7 May 2011 General Election, the MIW tended to discount virtual world feedback as unreliable, mischievious and unworthy of attention as the vast majority were penned anonymously. Go look at discussion threads in Hardwarezone and Yahoo Singapore, click on the profiles and you will be hard pressed to find any netizens who write in their real name.

The vote swing against the MIW made them reconsider this point of view. Post GE 2011, the word "engage" suddenly became a catch phrase among the MIW.

Before the next sunrise, we will find out if opinions expressed during the run up to the PE has resulted in campaigns won or lost.

In my opinion, the ground has not been sweet for Dr Tony Tan - the only former Defence Minister to make a bid for the highest office in the land.

If Dr Tan's vote count puts him first past the post, this victory would likely embolden the MIW to downplay, belittle or ignore the Internet as a feedback channel.

Like a one song band, they are likely to continue using Facebook to engage you on your side of the computer screen. The MIW's FB presence serves as a pressure valve, allowing netizens to vent their spleen on a host of issues. But as Maplewoods residents have learned, it would otherwise be business as usual.

Dr Tan's mathematician mind has probably worked out the permutations of a four-horse race and one hopes his election machinery has given the former Deputy Prime Minister a credible assessment of street talk.

Dr Tan will be hard-pressed to win this election as Dr Tan Cheng Bock is likely to give him a hard fight. This is based on ground sensing this past week.

Mistakes include what I see as a mishandling of the White Horse issue. After all is said and done, netizens want to know if the 12 years it took for one of Dr Tan's sons to complete his full-time NS was unprecedented. If it wasn't and other mother's sons also enjoyed this opportunity, the TT camp and the Singaporean Ministry of Defence (MINDEF) should have just said it, backed the statement with figures. Thus assured, most Singaporeans would have moved on.

No amount of counter arguments issued by Dr Tan's sons can match credible statistics on deferments which would kill vicious Internet chit chat over what some Singaporeans see as a World Record deferment (i.e. 12 years to complete full-time National Service).

From an information management standpoint, Dr Tan's sons should realise that the vast majority of Singaporeans (this blogger included) have never heard of them nor their career milestones prior to the PE. Now, we do.

So who spilled the beans?

Someone close to, or familiar with, their social circumstances must have been responsible. The Tan brothers, now grown up, need to reflect deeply on how they carried themselves since their NS days and ask themselves hand-on-heart if their mannerisms and social behaviour had offended Singaporeans along the way. Their friends and frenemies would know that answer.

In defence-speak, their OODA loop has been compromised. In my opinion, the Tan brothers should have brought things back on track by convincing Singaporeans that their respective NS stints not only fulfilled NS to the letter of the law but also to the spirit of laws governing NS.

In my view, their two replies danced around the three fundamental tenets of NS which are equity, universality and critical national need. Please read this landmark speech on NS delivered on 16 January 2006 by former Defence Minister Teo Chee Hean here.

Dr Tan is outraged political capital has been made from the White Horse issue. But so are many netizens who want and are entitled to know that the system they support treats every Singaporean son fairly.

By all means shoot the messenger(s) for bringing up the White Horse issue, damn them for trying to sabotage Dr Tan's PE bid but never overlook the heartlanders who have been following the issue and feel the replies on the White Horse issue failed to address nagging concerns.

Without proper closure and in the absence of reasoned debate, this issue will continue to haunt Dr Tan. Regardless of whether TT becomes our next President, MINDEF must be prepared to soak up collateral damage whenever netizens go on the war path.

We could go on and on about hits and misses in the former DPM/DM's election campaign or catch some shut eye ahead of the poll results.

Let's go for the latter and regroup later.

Note: This commentary was written before polls closed on 27 August 2011 and has been timed to go "live" at 2000 hrs Hotel. Comments on your polling day experience are welcome, as always.


Anonymous said...

You're forgetting Facebook. There are plenty of fake profiles but plenty who use their authentic ones, if only because they're too lazy to switch. Taht's what social networking 2.0 is about. You'll also notice Yahoo and HWZ profiles with fantastical usernamse but which are bona fide.

Ngiam Shih Tung said...

How is the WH system implemented these days ? I do actually believe that the WH system was originally created to ensure greater scrutiny of medical downgrades of sons of the rich and famous back in the early 70s. That the system was inverted to favour rather than to hold WH's to a higher standard is a very regretable reflection of human nature - both those at the top and those forming the tripod.

According to the PM, the WH sytem was cancelled some years ago, but anecdotally I hear otherwise. I presume there are no more WH stamps on personnel files and medical dockets, so what, if anything, has replaced them ? Electronic stamps that are not so easily seen ?

Anonymous said...

Hence the great affective divide. NS because you're forced to.

Anonymous said...

Parallel drawn between Patrick Tan and Melvyn Tan.

According to Teo Chee Hean,"Melvyn Tan left Singapore at age 12 in 1969 to study music at the Yehudi Menuhin School in England. In 1974, when he was 17, he won a Foundation Scholarship, jointly funded by the Straits Times Press, Nanyang Siang Pau and the Lee Foundation, to further his music studies at the Royal College of Music. As the course would take him beyond the enlistment age of 18, he applied for and was granted deferment from National Service for three years, after his parents furnished a bond of $30,000.

However, Melvyn Tan failed to return after his deferment period ended. Instead, he requested further deferment to pursue a Masters degree in music. The request was rejected, as we did not allow further deferment for postgraduate studies. When Melvyn Tan failed to enlist for full-time National Service after his deferment period was over and his exit permit had expired, the bond his parents furnished was forfeited and he was gazetted as an NS defaulter."

In a Ministerial Statement on National Service Defaulters, Minister for Defence Teo Chee Hean stated: "Mr Speaker, Sir, National Service remains critical for our national survival. Singaporeans serve willingly out of a sense of duty, and also a sense that the system is fair. Every citizen does his part, and nobody can dodge his responsibility to serve without severe legal and social sanctions. The Government will strenuously uphold the National Service system, and preserve its fairness and equity. This is essential to maintain the commitment that Singaporeans have shown over four decades of National Service."