Bukit Batok by-election: A small town votes but no one cares because election fatigue has set in

Singaporeans are tired.

Belmont Lay | May 05, 2016, 05:38 PM

Reporting on this Bukit Batok by-election will teach the media one thing: The struggle is real because there is such a thing as having too many elections.

Since GE2011, there has been the Presidential Election 2011, Hougang by-election 2012, Punggol East by-election 2013, GE2015 and now, the Bukit Batok by-election 2016.

Six elections in the span of five years will give anyone the equivalent of a Reverse Political Blue Balls syndrome.

There is such a thing as too much release and too much catharsis.

Is it me or are we tired?

Tired of all the details, of who said what, to whom and when and why and how much political capital each People's Action Party (PAP) or Singapore Democratic Party (SDP) candidate has lost or gained, this is an election that even Bukit Batok residents going to the polls don't care about — either because they have already made up their minds or have no idea who they are voting for or what is going down.

But, say, if you were a political otaku, what would you know or care about?

Well, you should be able to recite these following facts and figures like the back of your hand:

- Bukit Batok has a population of about 45,900. Of these, 25,727 residents will head to the ballot box on May 7.

- An overwhelming 95.7 per cent majority of residents live in public housing.

- Of these, 39.4 per cent live in four-room flats, followed by 31.9 per cent in one- to three-room units and 24.4 per cent in five-room or executive units.

This is, basically, a town devoid of private housing estates.

- The PAP has gone on their usual "he-is-untrustworthy" rhetoric when talking about Chee Soon Juan, while the SDP is trying to stay on top of their high horse without falling over.

- In 1997, Bukit Batok was merged into Bukit Timah GRC.

- In 2001, the constituency became part of Jurong GRC.

- In 2015, Bukit Batok was hived off as an SMC.

This was the election where SDP candidate Sadasivam Veriyah received 26.4 per cent of the vote, while independent candidate Samir Salim Neji lost his election deposit after garnering a mere 0.6 per cent of the vote. Ex-PAP candidate David Ong walked away victorious with 73 per cent of votes.

But Bukit Batok cannot be spoken about as if it is a PAP stronghold, even though it is located in the incumbent-loving, status quo-maintaining western part of Singapore.

This is so as the SDP came close to winning the ward twice in 1988 and 1991.

SDP candidate Kwan Yue Keng, garnered about 44.1 per cent and 48.2 per cent of the vote respectively, losing by a narrow margin to PAP's Ong Chit Chung.

The SDP versus PAP is, therefore, a battle two decades in the making.

The media can bleat repeatedly all day and night long about these details, but the fact of the matter is that this by-election has got no wider consequence for society at large.

And even as Singaporeans don't care and don't know, they can still be worn out to the extent they are not bothered about who is going to be the next member-of-parliament.

Media not absorbing by-election fatigue well

Websites and various news media have been hard at work waxing lyrical and political, trying to bring back the glory days of GE2015 readership and traffic.

But the only hitch is that there has not been any real breakthrough this by-election. Because there is little readership and little traffic.

No viral runaway hits. No meme-able moments. No real gifs because there have been no real gaffes. No significantly memorable videos. No outlet can properly set the agenda. Or thwart another's.

Four rallies and two more to go and there is simply nothing else to talk about.

The talking points have dried up. There are no more new ideas. We have collectively hit a stone wall.

Six-Six, a news blog, after a month-long hiatus of not publishing anything, tried to resurrect a long dead issue that no one cares about: The Singapore People’s Party’s (SPP) Chiam See Tong and Lina Chiam have not fully reconciled with Chee.

SPP when? Lina who? Chiam what?

Voters have it tough

For many Bukit Batok residents going to the polls again for the second time in 240 days, we feel your pain.

You could be at home on your couch in your jammies on a Saturday but you have to exercise your right as citizens of this young republic, carry out your patriotic duty of electing the next member of parliament as it is your responsibility standing on the shoulders of those who fought hard for universal suffrage in the first place.

Or you can just not turn up on this non-public holiday and register your displeasure as you are sick and tired of this process.


Top photo from Flickr.

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