Campaigns are quintessential for candidates and political parties contesting in the General Elections: through an assortment of media outreach strategies, mass election rallies, display of posters and banners et cetera, potential politicians would seek to reach out to their constituents and correspondingly canvass for votes on Polling Day. Throughout the designated campaigning period, the involved stakeholders would come under intense scrutiny and debate, as voting Singaporeans seek to comprehend the individuals contesting in their constituencies, as well as to make sense of the plethora of national socio-political and economic issues under discussion.
Election campaigns serve a myriad of purposes. First, voters would want to know more about the candidates that are contesting in their constituencies, and hear them expound upon tangible plans and proposals to enhance the community. Even though new faces would have been unveiled way in advance, constituents would only know of the respective politicians in their areas on Nomination Day. The campaigning process would also voters to have vis-à-vis interactions with these candidates; consequently, the engagement and communication skills of the latter would be sternly tested.
Second, not only would campaign information clarify and assess candidate position, campaigning also allows voters to weigh the varying messages and manifestoes presented; eventually, they would personally be able to make the most rational and well-informed decision at the ballot box. Discussions and dialogues on countrywide concerns or policy recommendations would be more focused, and increasingly substantive. Finally, as the electoral battle intensifies, the candidate’s and party’s ability to deal with criticisms and rhetorical salvos under pressure will reveal their crisis management abilities.
Therefore, given the aforementioned responsibilities, adhering to the minimum of ten days – including one for the Cooling-Off Day – would be counter-intuitive and detrimental. Having merely nine days would be insufficient for the explanation of policies and the introduction of new faces, and would indirectly benefit the incumbent political figures. Campaigning duties would definitely be especially demanding for candidates in group representation constituencies (GRCs), especially with the geographical spread and sheer number of residents. A longer campaigning time would also dismiss assertions that parties are unwilling to have their policies or track records scrutinised and deliberated upon. With the proliferation of social media and the Internet, increased campaigning time would also grant segments of on-the-ground Singaporeans – the disenfranchised, the young and the students, the low-income households et cetera – valuable opportunity to voice their dissatisfactions and opinions and have them heard: for it is during the General Elections when the population is most sensitive, attuned and reactive to these multitude of sentiments.
Two to three weeks of campaigning would be viable, and would grant candidates a minimum of two weekends to walk the ground and connect with the constituents. It would also be a test for the parties and candidates to manage their manpower and resources, and intelligently increase their outreach productively and efficiently.
A version of this article was published in The Straits Times.