It is over.
Like the past general elections, Singapore’s Elections, like the incumbent government, are apparently so efficient and effective that we can get it over and done with in a matter of days.
I’m not a politicking kind of person, I only talk about the Elections when it is Elections. Other times, I go about my normal life. However, this is my blog of current affairs and going-ons of my life so I am blogging my thoughts down as I believe that 2020 could be a watershed moment for Singapore’s PAP and government. I’m recording my thoughts in this moment in time so that I can read back 20 years later, and see how things have or have not changed. (That is, if I ever keep this blog for that long.)
Singaporeans Want to be Heard
In this election, we had the highest number of voter turnout in the history of Singapore’s elections at 96%. This is also the second time in Singapore’s history that all the seats were contested, the last was in 2015.
When we talk about voting, there are generally two main groups of Singaporeans, the older generation, and the younger generation. That could be over-generalizing though as there is also the sandwich class and the young, smart and single voters and some others in-between.
The way I see it, bearing in mind I’m just the average middle-income sandwich class with no experience in politics, elderly Singaporeans are used to not voting because we didn’t have opposition voices in most areas for a long time. They also tend to vote for PAP because they lived most of their lives under PAP and have seen how much progress society has made.
However the same can’t be said of our younger generation. Young people are more discerning, inclusive, like healthy debates and are not afraid of change. Critically, they also want to feel like their choice matters.
Even my 10 year old daughter asked me, “If PAP is going to win anyway, what is the point of voting?”
Putting aside my shock to hear that even primary school children are discussing politics, we have to acknowledge that the winds of change is coming. 20 years ago, this was probably unheard of. Perhaps the PAP can still take the votes of older Singaporeans for granted, they can’t do the same for the young generation.
The high voter turnout seems to prove this point. Singaporeans still stood in line, some for hours, amidst all the inconveniences that a pandemic brings. Singaporeans still came out to vote. This means that the choice of choosing our own government, something which was denied us for so long, is finally for everyone.
It is still a debate whether holding an election during this strange times was a good move. I’m pretty sure the PAP certainly thought that it will probably be to their benefit if the opposition didn’t have a chance to hold live rallies. Who knows whether they would perform better or worse? Some may say that Singaporeans who are already troubled by the health threat and loss of jobs or business could feel more frustrated by the elections. However I feel that online rallies are actually an improvement for both parties.
We have seen in 2015 that rallies tend to get heated. Even the most, well-composed PAP MP will become pretty ugly when faced with boos and jeers. Then the whole debate turns from policy issues that really affect Singaporeans to gutter politics and character assassination.
When the rallies are online, I can also skip over and literally choose what I want to hear. True, by and large, some gutter Politicians still rear their ugly heads but I can just fast-forward to skip to the next politician that truly discusses policies and matters that affects me as a Singaporean and, in turn, have healthy debates and discussions with my peers.
The best example was the Ang Mo Kio GRC. Yes, Lee Hsien Long won that GRC with a very comfortable margin of 72% but take note who their opponent is. It is the Reform Party. Relatively young and very small, it is safe to say that most of the 28% was actually voting against LHL’s star-studded (literally) cast of MPs. To add salt to the wound, the Reform Party didn’t really try too hard to garner votes as their Secretary General was Stuck At Home (SHN).
Diversity in Policies, Issues and Solutions
Through these rallies, what came into focus in my non-political mind was a few issues that Singaporeans are concerned about and yet not properly articulated by our incumbent party:
Jobs jobs jobs
Vivian Balakrishnan kinda sounds like Larry Kudlow (If you don’t know who he is, he is the current Director of the United States National Economic Council under Trump’s administration) when he mentioned this during the live TV debate. I agree that Singapore’s PAP ministers had been doing their best to prop up the jobs market and our economy over many years. However during this time of crisis, I feel that Singaporeans are expecting much more that the old dusty playbook of government handouts and skills upgrading, only intensified. This is part of the group-think mentality that plagued the PAP for a long time.
The opposition mainly played upon the fact that most middle-class Singaporeans feel like second-grade among the large number of foreign PMETs. It is not that we are all racists but most are looking for the feeling that they are actually appreciated and valued as Singaporeans. Also, with a large number of foreigners propping up our economy, something like COVID-19 seems to immediately expose the chink in the armour.
It was long suspected that Singapore’s well-meaning POFMA law would be used to “fix” the opposition. In this election, the PAP jumped to use the word “falsehood” faster than face masks gets sold out at Daiso.
I have never thought that much about the POFMA law until now. Is it really fair that ministers hold the power to it? Shouldn’t it be an independent body? It is like giving Mark Zuckerberg all the power to determine on Facebook what is fake news and what is not. Oh wait…
Our GRC system is probably unique as the boundary lines forever changes and it is completely different from state lines. For all the reasons that the electoral board explain why this is good for Singapore, I find that this policy needs to be reviewed.
Don’t forget about the “We also have a plan for the East Coast. We have a East Coast Singapore… We have a together at East Coast Plan. We care at East Coast.” blunder because DPM Heng swooped in at the last minute like a knight in shining armour to rescue the fair princess East Coast GRC from the hands of the evil WP.
Also, on the online rallies on ChannelNewsAsia, I find that most of the PAP MPs stuck to their GRC and talked mainly about how they can benefit their own GRC as if they can’t really comment on national policies. However I’m not against good ideas, like the super-efficient bin collection system at Yuhua and National Arts Council, but shouldn’t it be for all Singaporeans instead of just a single district? After all it is all taxpayer’s money right and we are all just ONE state/city/country right? I seriously have trash bin envy.
Majority Powers and Laws
I was ignorant of the judicial system of Singapore until this election. I never had run-ins with the law, generally am a law-abiding citizen (unless somehow I am investigated for POFMA untruths in my writing of this blog), and I have never studied law.
However I learnt that we have two kind of laws, common and constitutional. Taking the two most controversial laws recently enacted, POFMA is a common law that requires a simple majority to pass, and the Presidency Constitution Amendment bill that put Halimah Yacob in the presidential seat requires a super majority to pass.
Regardless of whether you think these are good or bad laws, it is a fact that these two laws were passed without much challenges at all. This is why majority and super-majority in Parliament is an important issue.
Which brings me to the issue of race. We have been told all our lives that meritocracy, our achievements and our success defines us. Meritocracy should be color-blind and our skin colour doesn’t make us superior. This is what I was taught and have practiced all my life. My best friends in school were Malays and Indians. I taught them Chinese and they taught me Malay and we also talked about our religions freely without being offensive.
However it seems like the PAP does not really believe in what they preach. Many of our racial laws seems to be outdated and they did not seem to trust Singaporean’s ability to discern and be objective. It is apparent that the racial card that they have played for so long is no longer so effective on the younger generation.
Group-Think and Diversity
Most of all, I believe the Singaporean population has matured greatly to accept diversity of ideas and are willing to be contested and challenged on their viewpoints and thoughts. They want to be part of the conversation.
This is the remedy to group-think, which was greatly blamed for the narrow policies and solutions which came out from the PAP.
This election is truly unlike any other. During this time of crisis, unfortunately the strong mandate that our Prime Minister asked for wasn’t a given. If I were to sum up in a word where things went wrong, it would be Humility.
Take into consideration this contrast of two young fresh faces introduced this year: Most Singaporeans were willing to accept Raeesah Khan’s sincere apology over Ivan Lim’s insistence that he did nothing wrong. When Ivan made a sudden reappearance in Tharman’s Facebook address, this made more netizens angry and mad because it sent a message that they were tone-deaf. (Although I accept the apology that Tharman sent after realising his mistake.)
Not to forget how quickly WP’s Jamus Lim warms the cockles of our hearts with this humble attitude on TV. To be fair, down-to-earth Desmond from PAP also gets an honourable mention too.
If there had been more humility, Josephine Teo would have apologised for her handling of the COVID-19 outbreak in dormitories and apologise. Not just to the foreign workers but also to all Singaporeans.
If only there was more humility to symphatize and emphatize with Singaporeans when they are already struggling with so much, and recognise that no one and no government is infallible, this wouldn’t be a watershed election.
On that note, as you can already tell from my opinions above, I’m more on the side of the opposition although I tried my best to be as objective in my opinions as possible and not side with any particular party. If I made any factual errors, just reach out I’m willing to change them ASAP.