Wednesday 27 June 2012

Rising youth interest in politics

Many still keen on joining parties after the General Election
By Tessa Wong, Teo Wan Gek and Andrea Ong, The Straits Times, 26 Jun 2012

MORE than a year after General Election 2011, political parties say record numbers of young Singaporeans remain interested in volunteering with them and joining as members.

That is different from past polls, when interest cooled soon after the hustings ended.

The People's Action Party's (PAP) youth wing, Young PAP, has seen about 1,000 new members a year in recent years.

The Workers' Party (WP) did not give exact figures but said more than 100 people - mostly young people - signed up as volunteers during last month's Hougang by-election. The Singapore Democratic Party (SDP) has seen its pool of youth activists double to more than 100 since the general election.

Many young party activists said last year's general election, the most keenly contested since Independence, gave them a chance to scrutinise the parties more closely, as they perused their manifestoes and listened to candidates' speeches.

Those who joined opposition parties said they did so to play a part in keeping the momentum going.

Polytechnic student Muhammad Ihsan, 21, became a WP volunteer last year and is still helping out regularly at their Meet-the-People sessions in Aljunied GRC.

Accounts assistant Joanna Chng, 23, joined the National Solidarity Party after she was inspired by its candidate Nicole Seah's rally speeches.

But the results of 2011 also sent some in the opposite direction.

After seeing the PAP lose a GRC for the first time and its overall vote share drop to a record low, political science student Calvin Aw, 23, decided to volunteer with the ruling party. He hopes the PAP can win back people's support 'by solving issues'.

The stigma of taking part in politics - especially of joining the opposition - is slowly eroding.

IT systems engineer Darren Lee, 27, said his family and friends supported his decision to volunteer with the WP. 'I do feel that the fear factor has lessened for young people,' he said.

The new blood helps to make up for the usual turnover that political parties see after every general election, when members take a back seat or when internal squabbles result in resignations.

Both the Singapore People's Party (SPP) and the SDP saw public walkouts by some members of their 'new guard' earlier this year.

But SPP says that new people are still applying to be members, while dozens of new faces were seen at the SDP's May Day rally. The need to replenish their ranks has encouraged parties to come up with new ways to reach out to the young, such as revamping their youth wings.

Political observer Terence Chong at the Institute of Southeast Asian Studies said these parties should offer young people 'a vision of Singapore that goes beyond their self-interest and material worth, as this keeps their ideals alive'.


This is the strongest way to contribute back to society. This is where I can get access to people, politicians, and engage them in policies.

- Risk manager Chirag Desai, 35, on why he joined the PAP

When you feel the country is not going the way you want, you simply have to step forward, otherwise the country will go down the tubes and you will feel miserable anyway.

- Law and information systems undergraduate Wilson Foo, 24, on why he joined the WP

I now see how politics and policies affect my daily life, from the cost of living to the

Primary 1 registration programme. I want to be more involved in these decisions... and I want my kids to live with more fundamental freedoms.

- Housewife and mum of three Frederique Soh, in her early 30s, on why she joined the SDP

Parties get hip to appeal to young
By Tessa Wong and Andrea Ong, The Straits Times, 26 Jun 2012

THE Pigeonhole cafe on Duxton Hill has always been a favourite among young hipsters, but one Saturday in May saw the venue packed to its brim.

More than 50 people showed up for a forum that had playwright Alfian Sa'at, actor Brendon Fernandez and rock band manager Mike See discussing an unusually philosophical topic - the Singaporean identity.

It was the maiden event by NSP Catalyst, an arm of the National Solidarity Party (NSP). Started this year by Ms Nicole Seah - one of the youngest candidates at last year's General Election - the group gets volunteers to do charity work, and runs a series of forums called Multiplicity.

'For a long time, many youth that we've encountered during walkabouts didn't seem interested in political newsletters, and some told us that they are too young to read political material,' she said.

So NSP launched Catalyst with a Facebook marketing campaign, cool-looking visuals and slick branding - members are called 'change agents' and the forum events are called 'mass conversations'.

Its target was clear: young Singaporeans, especially those in the liberal creative class, such as writers and designers. Ms Seah said Catalyst now has more than 100 volunteers and members.

Aware that just selling newsletters and walkabouts will not draw in a younger crowd, some parties are banking on newer ways like these to lure them in, from using online outreach to holding more interactive events.

The People's Action Party (PAP), for instance, has started a Young PAP Model Parliament. At the first session on June 9, some 80 young activists filled the Chamber@The Arts House - where Parliament used to sit - to debate policies and learn about parliamentary procedures.

The idea, said PAP's youth wing chairman Teo Ser Luck, had come from young activists from the Chong Pang branch. 'It is a good and constructive way to get feedback,' he said. 'We respect the voices and views of young people and we want them to know that their voices are heard.'

The Workers' Party (WP) too has started a series of interactive online activities. These include monthly quizzes and 'Workering', which invites supporters to take pictures of themselves with the party's iconic blue umbrella and upload them on Facebook.

'Workering' is the brainchild of youth wing exco member Tan Thuan Tong, 35, who also came up with the idea of the umbrellas for last year's General Election.

The WP youth wing has also set up two new committees on current affairs and social activities to engage its members better.

No comments:

Post a Comment