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#GE2015 Day 1 Diary: TOC volunteers share impressions of Nomination Day

Singaporeans volunteering for The Online Citizen during the general election period spread out across the country on Tuesday to be present at all nine primary schools designated to be nomination centres on the first official day of election campaigning.

As supporters gathered under the scorching heat to wait for their party's candidates, one observation made across all the nine centres was that supporters of the ruling People's Action Party (PAP) vastly outnumbered that of the other opposition parties.

PAP Nomination Day 2015

"If we were to observe closely, one can see the PAP machinery at work. The ability to mobilise about a 1000 people, mostly dressed in white, to come and stand in the sun. And I understand lunch is also catered for them after the nominations," said TOC volunteer Woon Tien, who was at Keming Primary School, the nomination centre for Bukit Batok and Yuhua SMCs as well as West Coast and Jurong GRCs.

Vernon Chan reflected on the push for a large presence of supporters:

Instead of providing a day for candidates to submit their forms to run in the general elections, Nomination Day in Singapore is for political parties to show that they’re really popular and have vociferous supporters who are willing to stand in the hot sun to shout slogans. And in some cases every year, faint in the hot sun after a few hours of shouting slogans. Is the general election a contest over how many people a party can mobilise on a working day, during working hours, and bus them to different locations on the island?

But of course the People’s Action Party will win precisely such a contest, even if the result of every Nomination Day ‘battle’ has nothing to do with the party’s performance on Polling Day. The PAP is the dominant state party in Singapore. It will always have access to more resources to mobilise more people to turn up at various locations on a working day, during working hours.

https://twitter.com/KStheKopite/status/638563911382405120

This was confirmed by another of TOC's volunteers when he managed to get on a chartered bus ferrying PAP supports back to the PAP Community Foundation. Our volunteer said that a free lunch was served.

The fact that they were outnumbered didn't really deter any supporters of the opposition party, though. In fact, different parties began to cheer for each other in solidarity.

"Although they were outnumbered by the supporters of PAP, the supporters of Workers’ Party (WP) and Singapore Democratic Party (SDP) were high in spirits, chatting away with one another and ready to cheer their candidates on. They were simply not intimidated by the size of the crowd in white," said Rachel Zeng who was at Yishun Primary School, the nomination centre for Marsiling-Yew Tee, Nee Soon and Sembawang GRCs.

"What struck me the most was how supporters of different parties supported each other. Both WP and SPP’s supporters were rooting and cheering for each other. PAP supporters gave a warm reception to Mr. Chiam," said another volunteer, Priscilla Chia, who was at Kong Hwa School, the nomination centre for Potong Pasir, MacPherson and Mountbatten SMCs as well as Marine Parade GRC.

"And it is in moments like these that make me feel very proud to be Singaporean. Isn’t it a beautiful thing, that despite our different political affiliations, our love for our country and fellow citizens transcends these differences and bind us together?" she added.

Timothy Lai at Assumption Primary School had a different experience:

It was sad that when the Returning Officer asked for respect for PAP, the SDP supporters started shouting, "YOG, YOG." It was sad that when the Returning Officer asked for respect for SDP, the PAP supporters immediately left the nomination ground. This is where Singapore is most broken - because nobody wants to listen to anyone but themselves.

Vernon Chan later reflected that perhaps it would be better for opposition parties not to play the PAP's game, and to galvanise their supporters in another way:

It might be far better PR for a party to turn out its supporters at the HQ or a convention centre for celebrations after office hours, after its candidates are officially approved. At least we’ll see that your supporters are ordinary people who lead ordinary lives, who turn up to celebrate and support their party on their own instead of having to be bussed there.

Although some independent candidates, such as blogger Han Hui Hui, were successful in their bids to stand for elections, Uber driver Shirwin Eu had to leave disappointed.

Unlike the last election, there was no late-stage drama of any candidates missing the deadline and getting disqualified.

"For the first time since 1963, all constituencies are being contested. A consensus of sorts was reached, for example, SDP pulled out of Sembawang GRC to avoid a three-corner fight. At a recent debate in NUS hosted by Inconvenient Questions, the sole PAP representative was questioned relentlessly by the other 9 Opposition party representatives and laughed at by the audience," said Jamal Ismail, who was also at Keming Primary School.

He added: "I doubt that Opposition unity will truly materialize anytime soon. But for the first time, the guns are trained in one general direction, and the whites having to defend and fight off multi-coloured challengers in every area. This few days of campaigning will be very interesting indeed."