GE2015: Independent Candidates and the Art of Self-Promotion - Alvinology

GE2015: Independent Candidates and the Art of Self-Promotion


A general election has been called in Singapore and Polling Day will be on 11 September. Nomination Day is on 1 September, just a few days away. As such potential candidates from various political parties and independent candidates have been making their way to the Elections’ Department’s headquarters at Prinsep Link to collect nomination papers.

There are the serious contenders, like those from established parties like the People’s Action Party (PAP) and the Workers Party (WP); and there are the odd ones, mostly those looking to contest as independent candidates.

The election deposit for GE2015 has been set at S$14,500 and it will be forfeited if a candidate in a single-member constituency (SMC) or a team in a group representation constituency (GRC) receives less than 12.5 per cent of the votes in their constituency.

As of August 26, at least three people have collected nomination forms and appeared to be interested in standing as independent candidates. They are Uber driver Shirwin Eu, 32; real estate executive Ooi Boon Ewe, 74; and former businessman Zeng Guoyuan, 63.

I always find independent candidates an interesting bunch. Most of them are good for laughs, but there are good ones too. For instance, Chiam See Tong, one of the most respected opposition leaders in Singapore and secretary-general of the Singapore People’s Party, contested his first election as an independent candidate before he went on to establish the Singapore Democratic Party.

If a person has S$14,500 to spare for a self-promotion marketing campaign, running as an election candidate may be quite worth it. I am seeing this from the point of view of a marketeer. Even if you failed to secure 12.5 per cent of votes and lose your deposit, S$14,500 is still much lesser than a typical marketing campaign in Singapore. Just one full page full colour ad in the national newspaper will likely cost more than that. Let’s not even add in television and radio coverages.

Given the amount of press coverage received by weirdos like Ooi boon Ewe who likes to talk big and often end up not contesting in all sorts of elections from the general election to the presidential election to by-elections, it is really a cheap and effective way of marketing.

Zeng Guoyuan, better known as “Parrot Man”, has a full article dedicated to him on the Straits Times, providing updates on his life. He was diagnosed with nose cancer last year and had to undergo surgery, leaving a gaping hole in his face where his nose used to be. Zeng now makes a living selling tissue papers. I am sorry to read of his plight and I wish him all the best in health as well as in life. Yes, he is going through a difficult phase in his life, but a lot of ordinary Singaporeans go through such experiences too and they are not given press coverage. The difference between them and Zeng is that the latter went to collect the nomination forms.

My favourite promotion guy has got to be Uber driver Shirwin Eu. Thanks to him, Uber got mentioned all over the local press and social media shares, generating lots of value in public relations (PR) for the private taxi brand. Eu said he wants to champion transports issues and even appeared in video interviews with the local media. Wow.

I am not sure if Uber is using Eu as a marketing tool, but wow. If this is a guerilla campaign, it’s simply brilliant.

If I the marketing guy at Grabtaxi/Grabcar, Uber’s rival, I will send one of my own driver down the next day to collection nomination forms and claim to want to champion transports issues too.

After that, both private car companies will have a field day fanning the local tabloid about their respective business propositions and ‘candidates’, generating even more PR value.

The best thing is, these potential candidates need not even really contest!

They just need to express interest to contest, get their free media coverage and then disappear. Appear on television – done; get quoted in the newspaper – done; be heard speaking on radio – done. Congratulations! You have just unlocked the achievement of trolling the media!

Who’s going to collect nomination papers together with me tomorrow after reading this article?

By the way, I really like the approved symbols for independent candidates for the coming election. These include really weird stuff like a whale, a rooster, a helicopter, a laptop, a rhinoceros, a ceiling fan, an ear, a piece of paper and a lighthouse:

GE2015: Independent Candidates and the Art of Self-Promotion - Alvinology

Who decide and design all these random symbols? Do you use a random word generator and churn out a series of random words to pick these?

If only the independent candidates can choose their own symbols to use intead of just the approved ones. The Uber driver will get to use the Uber logo and promote it all over Singapore if he really runs for election.

Okay, enough fun. The election is serious business as the PAP says it is about choosing Singapore’s leadership for the next 50 years while the WP says it is about us being able to have a say in the future we want.

Vote wisely. If there are independent candidates contesting in your ward, do consider carefully if you want an ear, a laptop, a flower or a ceiling fan to lead you for the next 50 years or talk to you about your future.


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