Tag: Singapore Democratic Alliance

Vote For Me! Singapore Elections Ephemera


Singapore’s 11th General Elections since independence marks the beginning of a design-conscious politics—a 2011 essay I wrote for The Design Society Journal No. 03.

The day after Nicole Seah was officially presented as an election candidate for the National Solidarity Party (NSP), The New Paper asked on its cover: “Do looks matter in elections?” It was directed at the online buzz generated after the 24 year-old Seah first announced over Facebook that she was standing for elections. Netizens were clearly taken in by her profile picture—what the paper described as “lovely flowing hair, make-up and her good side showing”—so much so that nobody bothered who she was contesting with in Marine Parade Group Representation Constituency (GRC). Some even began dubbing NSP as the “Nicole Seah Party”. Soon, digitally edited pictures of her as Wonder Woman and Scarlett in the upcoming G.I. Joe movie also began making their rounds online.

However, Seah, in her own words, was not just “another pretty face”. She was confident and articulate, making astute remarks during her campaign trail. This, plus her good looks, projected the image of an attractive and credible candidate to voters. Just over a fortnight after starting her Facebook page, Seah received even more ‘Likes’ than the nation’s founding father Lee Kuan Yew, earning her the title of Singapore’s most popular politician. Despite this, her NSP team did not win the election battle at Marine Parade. Yet, by garnering so much attention and winning 43.36 per cent of the votes against a People’s Action Party team led by former prime minister Goh Chok Tong, Seah’s campaign demonstrated how image played a part in helping a young unknown like her win votes.

This echoes the 2008 presidential election in the United States, when a relatively newcomer Barack Obama “crafted a meticulous visual strategy”, that helped propel him to victory. While Seah and the other candidates of Singapore’s 11th General Election did not display the sophistication of Obama’s visual campaign—right down to choosing an appropriate typeface—they produced one of the most visually-driven election in recent Singapore history, heralding the beginnings of Obama-style politics in the future.

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VOTE FOR ME: Elections Posters in Singapore (2)

In the previous post, I talked about the manifesto posters that the various political parties put up during a General Elections. This time around, I’ll be looking at the posters that feature the candidates. Above are the various poster designs of the People’s Action Party (PAP) in 1972, 1976, 1988 and 1991 respectively. The lack of colour coincides with the period when colour printing wasn’t cheaply available yet. The choice of portraits was also conservative, or maybe even practical, since it is just as likely that these would have used for Identity Cards, or worse, funerals. It was only in the 1997 elections that the candidate photos came in colour, and by 2001, Photoshop also came into the picture.

1972 PAP Lim Kim San

1976 PAP Lim Kim San

1988 PAP LKY

1991 PAP Single

In contrast to these posters of the ruling PAP, the candidate posters of the opposition parties have generally been ‘less designed’, as evident in these posters of the Workers’ Party (WP) (1980), Barisan Sosialis (BS) (1984), Singapore Democratic Party (SDP) (1984), United People’s Front (1988), Democratic Progressive Party (1997) and National Solidarity Party (NSP) (1997). With the exception of NSP’s poster, the other opposition candidates don’t subscribe to the “less is more” attitude of the PAP posters. Instead, they try to squeeze the logo, slogan, party name (in all four languages!), candidate name, and in case you still don’t get it, icon or tagline reminding you to vote for him or her. One might attribute this desire to squeeze as much as they can to the lack of funding to print better posters, but one must also remember that by law, each candidate has a fixed budget for their elections campaign. For the last elections, one could only spend on average, $3 per voter.1980 WP Single

1984 SDP Chiam See Tong

1984 BS Lee Siew Choh

1988 UPF Single

1997 DPP Tan Lead Shake

1997 NSP Christopher Neo

There few exceptions of distinctly designed posters of opposition candidates have come from two controversial ones: SDP’s Chee Soon Juan (1997) and Singapore Democratic Alliance’s Steve Chia (2006 and 2001). For some reason, the latter’s posters reminds me of real estate advertisements. I think it’s the man in a suit with the choice of colours.

1997 SDP Chee Soon Juan

2001 SDA Steve Chia

2006 SDA Steve Chia

A new type of candidate posters had to be designed in 1988 when the Group Representation Constituency (GRC) came about. Suddenly, one candidate had to share the same space with two or more as seen in these posters of the PAP (1988), WP (1997), SDA (2006) and PAP (2001).

1988 PAP GRC

1997 WP GRC

2006 SDA GRC

2001 PAP GRC 1


Finally, just a quick look at a quirky category of posters that belong to the independent candidate, a breed that has not existed since the 2001 elections. Their posters reflects how inadequate they are without the resources and machinery of a party.

1984 IND Lee Mun Hung

1984 IND Stanley

1988 IND Harry

1988 IND MG Guru

1991 IND M G Guru

1991 IND Yen 1

2001 IND Tan Kim Chuang