New issues and a more demanding electorate

New issues and a more demanding electorate

Hot-button issues have changed and Members of Parliament (MPs) now face a more demanding electorate after the General Election in 2011, which delivered an unprecedented number of seats to the opposition, said Marine Parade GRC MP Seah Kian Peng.

The two biggest bugbears the 50,000 or so residents in his ward of Braddell Heights have: The spiralling cost of health care, and overcrowded buses and trains, as well as public transport disruptions.

In the past, concerns revolved around the lack of jobs and housing which have "come off a lot" after the housing supply was ramped up and the economy improved, said the second-term People's Action Party MP.

"Policies have also changed to allow more people to get flats," he said, adding that the cost of health care remains a top grouse. "Singaporeans are worried for themselves and their parents. As for transportation issues, we were so used to a system at a certain level of efficiency."

Residents are also more demanding now, said the 52-year-old, who puts this down to changing modes of engagement, higher education and a more active interest in their vote.

He receives about 20 e-mail and Facebook messages a week now, up from about 10 in his first term. And what used to be the "acceptable norm" for a reply has now shortened, he said, adding: "You need to respond fast."

Residents also seem to have become "more passionate" about issues that matter to them, say, animals rights or the use of common spaces.

"And what matters to them needs to be heard and solved," he said, adding that this could be a sign of the coming-of-age of a population that is a lot more well-travelled.

He recounted an incident recently, where plans to build barbecue pits in a public park hit a roadblock after residents nearby put their foot down. Their argument: The pits would mean noise and smoke.

"It's not easy to satisfy the demands of everyone. What is music to you may be noise to another," he said, adding that the BBQ pits will be built, but with a buffer between the pits and the flats. "We have to recognise that we don't live alone."

Singapore's success may have also led to people casting their votes on single issues.

"They think that nothing can go wrong here, things will continue to function and crises will be resolved. They also think that their family's future will not be affected by a change in government - if these two thoughts are at play, then the vote could be used on the basis that as long as you solve my problems, I will vote for you.

"It's very one-dimensional, based on a single issue," he said, adding that since GE 2011 he has had about five people threatening to vote for an opposition party unless their issues get resolved.

So, is he confident about the next General Election?

He has hardly seen the "other team" around, said Mr Seah, referring to the National Solidarity Party, which contested Marine Parade GRC in 2011.

"If they appeared, it was once in a blue moon. And there are not many blue moons," he quipped.


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