Do I really need to explain who Nicole Seah is?
She’s the fresh-faced 24-year-old candidate for the National Solidarity Party (NSP) — one of five for Marine Parade group representation constituency — who was launched to fame through a video of her inaugural speech when she was first introduced by the party (with a follow-up interview). Coming across as everything Tin Pei Ling was not, Seah gained tens of thousands of “Likes” on her Facebook page within a couple of days. Tin is also contesting in Marine Parade, but under the banner of the People’s Action Party.
Seah, while youthful, came across in the video was someone who really cared about those left out by Singapore’s headlong pursuit of material growth, yet displayed a seriousness of purpose and self-awareness beyond her years.
The election season having kicked off with Nomination Day on 27 April 2011, the first rallies were scheduled for 28 April, with the NSP holding theirs at Geylang East, in Marine Parade GRC.
But first, a picture from earlier that afternoon, taken at the NSP’s headquarters, where banners were being prepared for the rally:
The rally site was a 500-metre walk from Aljunied metro station. Along the way, the party affixed posters onto several streetlamps. Here’s a guy taking a closer look:
By the time I arrived, the rally was in full swing. The set-up was in the usual style:
The crowd was quite respectable. I estimate it was 5,000 persons, perhaps more, spreading over an area about twice the span of this photograph.
(The black patches in the middle of the picture are the leaves of a tree, thus obscuring a part of the crowd nearest the stage.)
At the periphery of the site, the party set up tables to sell their newsletter:
Some could be seen reading the articles, especially when non-English speeches were being made:
A closer shot of a part of the crowd, of mixed ages and ethnicities:
The crowd waited patiently for Nicole Seah’s turn to speak, which wasn’t to be until 9:15 p.m. I don’t know about the others, but I was a little disappointed. She adopted what I call the “old warhorse” style of rally speechmaking, comprising a series of attacks on government policies, including the jibe that each time we go to work on the metro system, we find ourselves in a foreign country, followed by a few specific promises, e.g. that the NSP would lower the Goods and Services Tax from 7 to 5 percent.
At the end of it would be a recapitulation of vague generalisations, about being “your voice in parliament”.
It was as if her own personality was zippered up, so she could perform as old warhorses are expected to. The personable, slightly self-questioning style which people found so enticing on video was erased by the demands of the script.
All in all, it served only to remind me how old-fashioned our political rallies are. The stage set-up is unchanged from 50 years back, the hectoring, lecturing speech-style remains as before. Speaker after speaker does it the same way, making the same accusations of the ruling party and the government, the only relief from boredom being the occasional witty turn of phrase (usually in Chinese dialect).
Nevertheless, people thought she was worth coming to see. Throughout her time at the microphone, numerous cellphones were held up making a video record of what I thought was a forgettable speech.
When she was done, the crowd cheered (but not all that enthusiastically),
. . . and then about a quarter started to leave. There were still 30 minutes of speeches left, by party leaders who surely must have intended to bring the rally to a rousing conclusion, but evidently a good number of the spectators were here only to see the week’s sensation in the flesh.