Elaine Ee-Meyers: Are Singapore taxi drivers part of the government’s election campaign?

Elaine Ee-Meyers: Are Singapore taxi drivers part of the government’s election campaign?

Elaine Ee-Meyers wonders if Singapore’s taxi drivers have been roped into PAP’s effort to campaign guerilla-style

With rumors that the next Singapore General Elections are just around the corner, Singapore’s long-ruling People’s Action Party (PAP) and our band of opposition parties have begun their hustlings in earnest.

All sides have been capitalizing on social media fever to get their message out, and in particular to connect with younger voters, now more than ever.

And this is one arena in which the opposition actually might be enjoying more traction than the PAP, who have always hogged mainstream media channels.

And we wonder if the sometimes smug incumbents might be feeling a bit outdone here. And realizing that if they are not winning the viral social media game, that they should go guerilla in more on-the-ground ways to attempt to further cement their subliminal messaging to voters during this crucial period.

Our suspicions were raised due to the appearance of this pretty unusual phenomenon in this usually predictable city.

Last week we actually encountered the unthinkable: two pro-PAP taxi drivers.

Singapore taxi drivers are notorious for spewing pure, unadulterated anti-PAP vitriol from the minute they start the meter right up to the second you get your change, but these two were singing the praises of our Glorious Leaders.

“I think Electronic Road Pricing (ERP) and Goods and Services Tax (GST) are actually being used well by the PAP,” insisted one of the taxi drivers in total earnest. “They use the money to build us such good roads and things.”

We had to shake our heads to make sure our ears weren’t being clogged by glue and that we were really hearing this. A taxi driver thinking kindly about ERP is about as unlikely as a tenant begging for his rent to be raised.

“And you know,” said the other, “Singaporeans are just so ungrateful for all the wonderful things this government has done. It’s only the Singaporeans who live in countries where things are harder that appreciate the government’s efforts.”

Well, sorry if we’re not rushing to compare ourselves to the Central African Republic or Iraq but if we recall correctly we have been told we are nothing less than number one in the world and hence benchmark ourselves accordingly.

The icing on the cake, however, was, when one of the cabbies said, “I just hate taxi drivers who complain and complain about the PAP.”

At this point we started checking the taxi for hidden microphones and cameras.

Perhaps some marketing-savvy PAP staff cleverly spotted the great influence taxi drivers have over the masses, and saw a golden opportunity.

Taxi drivers transport thousands of people every day who, for the duration of their ride, are a captive audience and must absorb, willingly or not, some of the tirade, even if it is all in Hokkien.

Or perhaps some of the pre-election carrots are having their desired effect.

Interestingly, both the two taxi drivers were encountered at the airport. Smart move. Singaporeans returning from abroad (abroad (but not from the Central African Republic or Iraq) are the ones that need their brains washed out most, so best get them before they even hit the East Coast Parkway Expressway. By the time they reach Ang Mo Kio or Choa Chu Kang, they’re sold.

Unfortunately we were only going to Changi.

Are there more taxi drivers like these two out there now? Will they be popping up all over the city, waiting with obsequious smiles to lure unsuspecting passengers into a mind capsule filled with cheap air-freshener?

Will they be queuing up outside universities and law firms? Will they give all the opposition Facebook pages a run for their money?

Whatever the case, if taxi drivers are not being brought into play for the PAP’s election campaigns, perhaps they should be.

After all, with the opposition now gaining significant ground using new media and all constituencies being contested for the first time since 1965 (!) the ruling party might need to get up to new tricks to stay on top.

The opinions of this commentary are solely those of Elaine Ee-Meyers