Can you smell the election coming?
Back in 2008, I was a college student studying political science in the US. That year, Obamamania swept the country, especially in the cities and in college campuses. Here was a man so charismatic and inspirational, he brought an abundance of hope and empowerment to young people. And they returned the favour by voting him into office.
The election of Obama was my first real taste of election politics, and I loved it. I wrote a story about my college student Democrats and their campus fundraising efforts, for the college newspaper. I was swept up by Obama-fever when he dropped unannounced at my college’s Little 500 bike competition.
When I returned to Singapore post-graduation in 2011, I had just missed the GE2011. And when GE2015 came around, I lost my voting rights because of 2011 (I failed to restore my voting rights in time for 2015). Still, covering GE2015 was a thrilling experience, largely because of the opposition hopefuls’ antics, as well as that of PAP fresh faces.
As we head towards another election season, I cannot wait to witness the biggest Singapore story since Lee Kuan Yew’s passing and SG50. Besides the murmurs from my friends in the newsroom that the election is in September, here is my unprofessional assessment why it is likely GE2019:
1. Merdeka Generation Package campaign
The ad explosion of the benefits for our seniors really feels like a big election campaign blitz for the (PAP) government to tell its people, “hey, I’m taking care of your parents. Vote me in.” One can only guess how big a budget that goes into all those Merdeka music videos and print ads, plus the door-to-door outreach to neighbourhoods with seniors. The last time this happen, it was in 2015 for the Pioneer Generation marketing blitz. If you recall, there were these Royston Tan-directed music videos to promote the benefits:
As if the Merdeka ad campaign wasn’t enough, we’ve got a ton of taxpayers’ money channeled into fanning up the nostalgia (=nationalism), with the celebration Singapore’s 200-year history starting from Raffles’ arrival. Ok lah, this project I like because I’m a history buff. Jumping onto the bicentennial bandwagon are government-linked organisations and corporations, and it feels like this sentimentality can veer to the point of being cloying.
3. GST voucher + Bicentennial payment
Now I know that GST vouchers are an annual thing, but the recent announcement just seems timed for the election season? #conspiracytheoristmuch
4. Heng Swee Keat
Our PM confirmed Mr Heng as DPM. A clear leader is anointed. This announcement was made back in April, but it looks like a new team should fall in place by around National Day.
5. Recession 2020
Last but not least, numerous reports are saying the 2020 is the year we slide back into a global recession. To be fair, the banks, economists and financial institutions seem to say this for just about every year. But, with the intensified Sino-US trade war, it really does feel like things will slow. I reckon having an election when the economy collapses can’t be good for the incumbent, can it? Because it feels like, perhaps, they didn’t steer the ship well enough.
My guess is that our PM may want to call this later this year when the economy is still holding it together.