I was chatting with my friends the other day about the General Election 2011 in Singapore. From the conversations I had with them, it made me realise one thing, and it hit hard upon me, that Singaporeans are not politically apathetic at all. In fact, Singaporeans generally have a lot to say about the government, about how everything is being run here, and the rise of the opposition parties in the country. Most of them are very excited about this election, because they can feeling the building tensions among the public, the increasing dissatisfaction with the PAP government, as well as the fact that most of the seats in the parliament are contested, and majority of Singaporeans can vote, except for the Tanjong Pagar Constituency, which is PAP’s stronghold, due to the fact that MM Lee is still a candidate in that GRC. Furthermore, the education level of the new generation of Singaporeans has improved drastically, and the interest in politics and governance naturally increases too.
There are three groups of voters in this election. First, are the downright haters of the PAP government. They will generate the Hate Votes. It means that they may know the PAP is still the best party to date compared to other opposition parties, but because they just dislike the way PAP run the country, and are irritated and dissatisfied with the government policies, they want to vote for the opposition so that PAP will not be returned to power. The second group of people are the loyal supporters of PAP, and they believe that every policy that the government has implemented, are for the sake of the country and the citizens, and pragmatism is the way to bring the country forward. They are just grateful with the PAP for bringing the country from a Third World country to A First World Nation within a short period of 30 years. The third group of voters, are more well-informed about how the country is run, the true meaning of a democracy, the criticisms that Singapore has been facing over the years over the authoritarian government and the need for alternative voices in parliament. They do not believe in a one-party state, and feel that freedom and human rights are important aspects of their lives.
During the last few days of rallies and speeches given by the PAP government and the opposition parties, there had been war of words among the politicians and the citizens have been voicing their opinions, support and anger over the internet forums and media. Personally, I believe that the PAP have said things that irritated me, and the opposition parties have also promised things that I believe will not happen. For example, in the hotly contest Aljunied GRC, where PAP is fighting real hard with the Workers’ Party, Lee Kuan Yew said that if the voters in the end decided to vote for the opposition and WP wins, “well they have 5 years to live and repent”. The words are very harsh, cold, elitist, threatening and unbecoming of a leader of the people. “repent” itself is a very strong word to use, and its almost akin to telling the voters to throw themselves in jail and think about what grave mistake they have made in voting for the opposition. In that case, what is the point of having an election? Why not everyone just vote for PAP, because if we dont, Lee Kuan Yew wants us to repent. He is telling us it is a grave mistake to vote for opposition. I may be supportive of the government over the policies they have implemented over the past few years, but this comment has irritated me badly. The other comments were given by Vivian Balakrishnan regarding the SDP’s gay agenda. This is totally smear tactics to bring down the opposition. It is dirty, and so clearly shown to the public. Singaporeans are not stupid. Thanks to the government, our education levels have increased dramatically over the past decades, and we understand every underlying meaning to the words and sentences the PAP have said. They use track records to bombard the opposition. What about track records? Were the opposition given a chance to do something for the people when they were not even elected into the government? They mentioned about SARs. George Yeo said the opposition did not prove their capability during the Sars period. I did not know that opposition politicians and not the government leaders are supposed to do something to save the country during crisis. Then what are the ministers for. We should have an Opposition Minister of Health. That would definitely give a track record for the opposition. Whether it is a positive track record is another issue. The PAP also mentioned, “Where are the opposition when the people needed them? They only appear during the election periods. After that, they disappear!” Hello, who made them disappear? Are the opposition even allowed to voice out to the citizens other than Speakers’ Corner ( which is such a failure)? The police do not give them permits to go around houses door-to-door to speak to the people. The opposition have limits of expanding their presence. So, we cant blame them for ‘disappearing’ after the election.
On the other hand, some policies planned and suggested by the opposition are not viable solutions either. The WP wanted more rental flats to be built as possible solutions of the rising costs of living. They did not think of the consequences of having rental flats, which traditionally causes widespread social problems like crime, filth, poor living conditions and disorder. The opposition also promised to cut their salaries to give more to the poor. How sure are we that the opposition will not follow the PAP’s footsteps in years to come if they really come to power? The statistics given by Nicole Seah of the NSP about taxes collected from the GST hike and distributed to the poor may not be true. How does she know about all these statistics which are not disclosed to the public? How did she find out that the GST hike from 5% to 7% actually resulted in an increase in tax fees of $1.9billion? Maybe she hacked into the account of the government statistics department? How sure are we that the speeches given by the opposition are truths but not speculations and lies?
Generally, Singapore’s opposition parties are not strong enough to bring down the PAP government, yet. The PAP still wins the hearts of majority of Singaporeans, who accept the fact that the government has improved the economy of Singapore over the past 5 years, and the general income of Singaporeans have improved. The only pressing issues that seem to be unable to get off the minds of Singaporeans are the steep rising costs of living, huge influx of foreigners, inflation rates, unfavourable policies like CPF, GST hikes etc. Are these issues capable of bringing swing votes? Will Singaporeans vote for the opposition because of these few pressing issues without thinking about the repercussions and consequences it may bring to the country for voting an amateur opposition party? From the news, Singaporeans are now more confident of showing displeasure of the government in public, like booing of PAP candidates as they made their rounds around estates in lorries, people shoving the candidates away when they try to give them flyers and pamphlets. PM Lee has also allowed more freedom for the opposition to produce political videos on the internet, and carve out districts into GRCs and SMCs in such a way that there will be more opposition leaders in parliament, at least for the next 5 years. This change has comforted me significantly, giving me more hope that one day, we can have a freer press, and Singaporeans can be given a larger stage to voice our opinions without fear of being caught.
国家兴亡，匹夫有责。This is a chinese saying that every man has a share of responsibility for the fate of this country. The voters for this election must really think carefully before voting, because their votes will bring significant impact to the country, directly and indirectly. It can be positive or negative, depending on the outcome of the election. From my point of view, PAP will still form the next government, but the presence of opposition in the government will be felt strongly, which is never before seen in a country ruled by a single party for the past 50 years. I cant wait for the Election Day and the results, especially Aljunied GRC. Aljunied residents, all eyes will be upon you.
Here are some election videos over the past few days showing the election fever in Singapore.
Note: Singapore’s ruling party PAP, has a party symbol of a blue circle with a red lightning in the center. The strongest opposition to date is Workers’ Party, colour blue with a harmer in the middle of the symbol.
You wont believe the sheer scale of supporters at the opposition rally of the hottest contested district in Singapore, Aljunied.