General Election 2015: Netizens' flames too hot to handle?

General Election 2015: Netizens' flames too hot to handle?
TROLLED: Mr Steve Chia (above) withdrew from contesting in MacPherson SMC after an online smear campaign, which was slammed by opposition leader Goh Meng Seng.
PHOTO: The Straits Times

The trolls have won.

And with that declaration, National Solidarity Party's (NSP) Steve Chia announced he was no longer contesting the MacPherson single member constituency (SMC), releasing the news in a Facebook post at about 1am yesterday.

This means the three-cornered fight between the NSP, People's Action Party (PAP) and Workers' Party (WP) will be avoided.

Mr Chia, 44, a former Non-Constituency MP who contested Chua Chu Kang SMC in 2001 and 2006, and Pioneer SMC in 2011, said he would be dropping out of GE 2015.

In a Facebook post that has since been removed, the central executive committee council member of NSP added: "It is with anguish and deep sadness that my lifelong ambition to be the people's spokesman in Parliament ends today."

Netizens were not happy when Mr Chia recently threw his name in the hat. They flamed him online, found old scandalous pictures of him and circulated them. They also attacked the reputation of NSP president Sebastian Teo.

Others weighed in on the smear campaign. Not long after Mr Chia's U-turn, an article written by People's Power Party chief Goh Meng Seng was posted on a blog named Singapore Alternatives.

Titled "Say no to third world dirty smearing politics!", Mr Goh wrote: "I find it distasteful and downright despicable for supporters of some political party to utilise underhand smearing tactic to attack their opponents.

"We won't be able to achieve "first world parliament" with such third world despicable dirty politics.

"First the mob attack (on) SDA (Singapore Democratic Alliance) Desmond Lim, harassing him to the max with all kinds of insinuation and smearing. Then they turn against NSP Sebastian Teo and Steve Chia."

Speaking to The New Paper yesterday evening, Mr Goh said the blog post was referring to "those who go around whacking opposition leaders."

Without revealing any details, he added: "They know who they are. I'm not going to comment. Let the people decide who these people are."

Singapore Management University law don Eugene Tan said that Mr Chia's announcement yesterday came as a surprise to him.

Of the online attacks on Mr Chia, he said: "Those who are pro-opposition don't support three-corner fights as they can get in the way of the opposition making further inroads in parliament.

"On the other hand, the ruling party supporters welcome them as this could split the opposition vote, making a difference in close fights."

The same thing happened at the 2013 Punggol East by-election.

Reform Party's Kenneth Jeyaretnam and SDA's Desmond Lim were flamed online for entering the fray with PAP and WP.

Mr Jeyaretnam had to make a police report when a death threat was made against his son.

Political observer Mano Sabnani thinks Mr Chia may have withdrawn for another reason.

He said: "I think the real reason for the withdrawal was that he and the NSP calculated that it was a wrong move to contest in MacPherson SMC. It won't help NSP as two bigger parties - the PAP and the WP may be contesting there.

"When two elephants are at play and a smaller player gets in between them, chances are, it will get trampled."

ashaffiq@sph.com.sg


This article was first published on Aug 24, 2015.
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