Coffee shops:PAP's new launchpads

PAP announced its Bishan-Toa Payoh GRC line-up at a coffee shop.
PAP announced its Bishan-Toa Payoh GRC line-up at a coffee shop. PHOTO: THE NEW PAPER FILE

A packet of teh peng dangles from the hand of housewife Karen Chan. Her other hand aims a cellphone at an unoccupied table in Boon Lay Market and Food Centre.

"MP lai," she says in a stage whisper. "Election time already."

Microphones stand on the table. Reporters sit knee-to-knee around it. Cameras flash.

Madam Chan, 45, visits the market every weekend. But last Sunday, she stopped to join onlookers as co-anchor minister S. Iswaran introduced the People's Action Party (PAP) team that will stand in West Coast GRC.

Nowhere does election talk flow more freely than in Singapore's humble coffee shops. Complaints are unloaded, predictions made, and rumours gather steam.

This year, coffee shops have also become the PAP's go-to venue to introduce new election teams.

The change in strategy and the early roll-out of new MPs has dominated election talk. "This is how they should have done things from the start. We feel more secure because we know what's happening on the ground, instead of thinking about whether our MP will be a new person we don't even know about," says Boon Lay resident Arthur Ng, 53.

Some, though, accuse the PAP of "putting on a show". Scoffs financial planner Melvin Tan, 33: "How they should do it, is tell the residents first, not the reporters. They can send us fliers, tell us at grassroots events. But now they do these conferences, and they do it in the coffee shop and think that means it's for the residents?"

Lines have been drawn even between friends. Over in Nanyang ward, Mr Mohamad Ramli, 54, says he will continue to vote for the PAP, while his close friend of 20-odd years, Mr Loh S.M., 62, is eyeing Mr Goh Meng Seng's new People's Power Party.

"I met them on their walkabout and I find them very down-to- earth. This election should be about giving the opposition a chance to prove themselves also," Mr Loh says.

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Sunday Times on August 23, 2015, with the headline 'Coffee shops:PAP's new launchpads'. Print Edition | Subscribe