On Tuesday 19 April, the much-awaited moment came. The Singapore Parliament was dissolved; and in the following week, the Singapore Parliamentary General Election (GE) nominations took place on Wednesday 27 April. For the second time since GE 2006, the ruling party People’s Action Party (PAP) was not returned to power on Nomination Day. Much as anticipated, almost all electoral areas in Singapore are contested except Tanjong Pagar GRC, of which has experienced a walkover by 5 PAP GE candidates in the ward.
Due to fact that this elections have the highest proportion of contested seats since Independence, with 82 out of 87 parlimentary seats contested (or 94.3%), and in addition, the Opposition has had produced more credible and strong candidates, it has been seen as the ‘biggest political battle ever in the history of Singapore GE’ among Singaporeans.
The 16th Singapore GE takes place this coming Saturday 7 May 2011, a public holiday declared. About 2.3million eligible Singapore voters (including myself) will get to cast vote at the ballot box. According to law, Singapore citizens aged 21 years & above, and are registered in the electoral registers, are allowed to vote.
I shall get the opportunity to vote for the second time.
My feelings invoked are greater and more intense, as compared to GE 2006. Why? This is because I have a few friends who are standing as GE candidates in this election.
For all political parties, preparations for GE campaigning started almost immediately after Nomination Day. It is the 5th day today. Since then, GE news headlines are splashed across various local newspapers and websites daily. I also read many GE-related commentaries and thoughts published on my Facebook newsfeed and Twitter. Many friends shared their thoughts about the arguments spoken at GE rallies boldly and openly in cyberspace. The high literacy rate among Singaporeans today has translated into our youths being well-educated, more IT-savvy, globally-connected, mobile and vocal, as compared to older generations such as our parents and grandparents. As such, my personal observation is that the level of political awareness among Singaporeans today has increased greatly, as compared to that five years ago.
So, who says Singapore youths are politically apathetic?
They are certainly NOT.
Across all GE rallies held so far, there were electoral debates on issues such as HDB flat prices, cost of living, CPF, jobs and foreign workers. The list goes on. Public debates on these issues bring to light the principles underpinning certain decisions. Singaporeans get to see how difficult it is for the Government to balance opposing views or interests. For young Singaporeans like myself, I presume this is the kind of rigorous debate which we would like to see more in Parliament in future, not just once every 5 years.
I feel that all government policies and the usage of public funds should be better clarified to Singaporeans in a transparent manner. Let’s lay out all facts and statistical figures openly, I say; no doubt I understand that there are some information which should be kept strictly confidential.
As mentioned in Dr Lee’s letter to ST Forum Page published today, we see two main arguments in the current GE debates. One is about obtaining individual benefits and securing one’s economic future. It is about getting better paying jobs, better HDB home value prices, or fatter growth dividend surplus ‘red packets’. Yes, this caters to the voters’ self-interest.
Wheras on the other hand, the other argument is about recognising the fact that elections are an important part of democratic process, allowing the people of a country the opportunity to control the political agenda by voting to elect representatives of diverse voices to Parliament, not for one voice to dominate all others but for all elected Members of Parliament (MPs) to concilliate their differences in accordance with the general will of the people. If they fail to deliver, they could be voted out by the people at the next elections.
For the past couple days, I am sure most of us have had heard the Opposition calls for plurality of voices, checks and balances in Parliament so that it can better reflect “rule by Singaporeans”.
If the people are deemed to be politically naive, they might have the tendency to defer all political decisions to the experts, which I believe in this case, are the government policy-makers and the GE candidates of whom they believe in. In this case, the 1st argument might strike a chord with older generations of Singaporeans of whom may be uneducated. Take note, I could be wrong.
50 years of economic success and prosperity has expanded the middle income group across all ethnic groups, and have had resulted in an increment in the high literacy levels among Singaporeans today. As you can see, there are many diploma and university degree holders in our active workforce. Hence the concept of political equality may take place among well-educated Singaporeans. The 2nd argument for true democracy will become more compelling for them.
The various styles of political parties at GE rallies leave a lasting legacy on the Singapore electorate especially the 1st-time young voters, either engendering deeper trust or alienating them. The fair and gracious way our GE candidates earn their mandate sets the standard for our next generation of Singaporeans to aspire to.
I hope to see that our GE candidates or voters can agree or disagree in a gentlemanly manner. No insults. No personal attacks. Be tactful in their usage of words. Yes, it is very tempting to go below the belt to knock opponents out, but one loses his or her moral authority even if he or she wins.
The results of this current GE will be more or less a reflection of our society’s assessment of the relative relevance and cogency of these two arguments. As long as the elections are done in a transparent, free and fair manner, the results will NOT lie. Whatever the results may be this Saturday, all political parties and candidates must respect the decisions undertaken by the electorate.
Singapore voters shall judge and decide whom they want, to lead Singapore for the next 5 years.
I am excited.
All eyes will be on the results of this political battle.
Come 7 May, we shall see. 😉