GE2015: Singaporeans vote in Beijing

Remote video URL
A voter at the Singapore Embassy in Beijing.  ST PHOTO: TEO CHENG WEE
Voting is under way at the Singapore Embassy in Beijing.  ST PHOTO: TEO CHENG WEE

BEIJING - To cast his vote in Singapore's general election, undergraduate Saishreyas Sundarajoo, 23, took a six-hour train ride from Wuhan in central Hubei to Beijing.

The Marine Parade constituent showed little sign of fatigue from the long trip, telling The Straits Times that he had made the effort to travel to Beijing because it was important to exercise his vote.

"It's not about parties for me... I look at individuals. I want to have a say in who represents me in Parliament," said Mr Sundarajoo, who is studying medicine.

He was among the first Singaporeans to vote at the Singapore Embassy in Beijing on Friday (Sept 11), with some queueing up even before voting opened at 8am.

Besides Beijing, Singaporeans can also vote at the Singapore Consulate-General in Shanghai.

In the Chinese capital, about a dozen people - including Ambassador Stanley Loh - voted in the first 10 minutes after polls opened.

Mr Spencer Hsu, 33, who works at the Monetary Authority of Singapore in Beijing, was the second person in line. He said he wanted to vote early before heading for a conference.

Despite being far away from home, he said he was still gripped by election fever.

"It's interesting to watch the election from afar, because you need to watch the rallies online, but through social media and chat groups, we can get a sense of what the various candidates represent," said Mr Hsu, who is a Pioneer constituent.

He is voting overseas for the first time and will be hosting a few friends to watch the election results on Friday night.

Another person voting overseas for the first time is Ms Rebecca Lian, 59, who is Nestle's head of research and development in China.

"Elections are getting more exciting in Singapore," said the Hougang constituent. "There are more candidates with interesting backgrounds now."

Voters told The Straits Times that they saw issues like foreign immigrants and minimum wage as key issues during the election campaign.

And even though watching election rallies on YouTube requires more effort as the video-sharing website is blocked in China and they need to log onto a VPN network, they see it as an important part of citizenry.

"Some people say that one vote counts for very little, but I disagree. This bonds us all as Singaporeans," said Mr Sundarajoo. "When everyone can see the importance of voting, then Singapore will be stronger."

Speaking to Singapore media, Ambassador Loh said: "Singaporeans who have come appear quite pleased to exercise their right to vote even though they're overseas."

There are 12 election officials conducting the exercise at the embassy, with seven on duty at any one time.

This is the sixth time that the Singapore Embassy in Beijing is conducting overseas voting. Mr Loh said more Singaporeans have registered to vote this time compared to previous elections, although he declined to give exact figures. And while the bulk of voters arrived in the morning, others continued steadily streaming in throughout the day, even at the final hour of voting

The ballots were escorted back to Singapore immediately after voting closed at 8pm.

Join ST's Telegram channel and get the latest breaking news delivered to you.