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Tapping new Facebook features, Chee primes his campaign for speed and immediacy

SINGAPORE — Singapore Democratic Party (SDP) chief Dr Chee Soon Juan is known for his fiery speeches in English. So it came as something of a surprise for some netizens when he appeared in a new Facebook video last week and sang the popular Hokkien pop song ‘Ji Pa Ban’ (literally one million), an ode to the financial pressures of modern living.

Tapping new Facebook features, Chee primes his campaign for speed and immediacy

A compilation of screenshots of Dr Chee Soon Juan’s Facebook posts in the run-up to the May 7 Bukit Batok by-election.

SINGAPORE — Singapore Democratic Party (SDP) chief Dr Chee Soon Juan is known for his fiery speeches in English. So it came as something of a surprise for some netizens when he appeared in a new Facebook video last week and sang the popular Hokkien pop song ‘Ji Pa Ban’ (literally one million), an ode to the financial pressures of modern living.

With a guitar in hand and several tweaks to the original lyrics to better reflect his political message, Dr Chee crooned: “If there’s a million dollars for me, I would buy a car and a house. But the PAP wants COE, even though they see it’s killing you and me.”

In another video, posted on the SDP’s Facebook page, slow instrumental music plays as clips of Dr Chee going about his daily routines flash. The veteran Opposition figure intones: “I understand your worries. I know your hardship. I see your pain… I know… I know what it is like because I live among you.”

The videos, made in collaboration with volunteers, appear to be a continuation of Dr Chee’s efforts during last year’s General Election to portray himself as a champion of ordinary Singaporeans, as well as their hopes and anxieties.

What has changed for the Bukit Batok by-election, however, is his attempt to use social media to bring even greater speed and immediacy to his campaign — an approach that seems to complement the sense of urgency in his campaign slogan “Now is the time”.

On the morning of March 13, for instance, a day after the shock resignation of former Bukit Batok MP David Ong, Dr Chee led the SDP in a walkabout in the single member ward. Within two hours, video footage of him speaking to the media was posted on his and his party’s Facebook pages.

In the subsequent weeks, Dr Chee upped the ante by leveraging Facebook’s new live video casting feature. He has done so at least nine times, each time speaking “live” from a different location in Bukit Batok – the MRT, a hawker centre, void decks, a park, a playground, and a primary school.

The average number of views for Dr Chee’s nine Facebook Live videos on his page stand at about 27,000 as of Friday (April 29). The “live” posts received an average of more than 1,000 likes each.

In days leading up to the polls on May 7, Dr Chee told TODAY that he will be using Facebook’s live video function more often to give residents “first-hand information” and address criticisms from the People’s Action Party.

“I know that once I get it live, (my post) will be high-up on somebody’s Facebook feed... So I’m capitalising on that (to reach out to the residents),” he said.

Dr Chee’s aggressive use of Facebook’s new features has gone down well with some netizens so far. “You are fast in solving problems, that’s good,” wrote Facebook user John Lim on a recent “live” video post of Dr Chee.

Highlights of Dr Chee's social media campaign:

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