Wednesday, December 2, 2009

Singapore General Elections in 2010

We all can be cheeky once in a while, just like the cheeky PAP government teasing us about when the upcoming General Elections will occur. You know, if you're the single heterosexual guy, trying very hard to get the attention of one girl, but she keeps giving you mixed signals not knowing she's screwing with your feelings? Yup yup yup, but I'm not saying the government is a prick-teaser, but just being a prick and a teaser.

I have heard different sources telling me different dates, end 2008, end 2009, and now March 2010. This is so reflective of the Mayan end of days prediction, filled with speculation and to an extent riddled with doubt and skepticism.

Of course, photogenic experts interviewed by the History and Discovery Channel would interpret it not as the end of the world, but the beginning of change. Maybe it might be the beginning of a change that the incumbent PAP might find difficult to accommodate, which probably explains a series of election-related discussions and releases, as well as monologues concerning Singapore's future and sustainability - the latest being the one-day 'cool off' period prior to the day of voting.

The ruling party will always have the advantage in terms of preparations for elections campaigning and what not. Any time the Prime Minister decides it's time to do it, information will immediately be disseminated within his party. At the most, the press will take at least a "press day" to let the public (and the opposition parties) know the news.

This election, like any other election, will still have the same narrative of race being played up. All you need is the multicultural visual of the prominently dark skinned ethnic Indian woman, the middle-aged motherly tudung-clad Malay woman, and of course a young middle-class seemingly fairly educated Chinese person, all dressed in white, waving the PAP flag, and having their moment on the national press, and voila, you'll create something that campaign rhetoric cannot achieve.

This is the propaganda, solidarity and public relations machinery that the opposition lacked in previous elections. They parade their candidates, faces of whom glistening with sticky sweat, their unappealing mug shots immortalised in the mainstream newspapers, but the number of their photos far overshadowed by the many toothy smiles of Lee Hsien Loong. For instance, the Straits Times made Sylvia Lim look like the unglamorous disheveled coffeeshop cleaning aunty at the end of her day's shift. Image may not be everything, but it plays a part in getting people's attention, just look at well made-up Kennedy versus pale-looking Nixon.

For a couple of years now, the Straits Times has been sensitising us to political issues, or at least issues with political implications. MM Lee Kuan Yew, either a Minister Mentor, or Maverick Minister, has made his regrets clear concerning one policy (the bilingual policy). Well, at least he said he regretted it. Regretted it, that is government speak for "I'm sorry", but the government will never say it's sorry. Unfortunately, what's the point of apologising to an ungracious and unforgiving Singaporean population?

Iron-fisted but always radical in my opinion, I think Lee Kuan Yew's leadership is still needed in some areas of governance and policy. Unlike many of his younger (all of them ARE younger) PAP counterparts, he still knows when to change and how to change. Sure, he might have come across as power hungry and arrogant, but he knows 'change' more than some Ministers, some of whom probably know nuts beyond their comfort zones.

It makes me wonder sometimes if Lee Kuan Yew is the fengshui master for the PAP government. You know, the guy you would consult before implementing a policy or in this case, deciding the best time to hold the General Elections. Interesting consideration.

Back to the elections, I really hope the PAP stops talking about overarching policies and governmental achievements over the years, and start looking at what the Members of Parliaments have actually done for their constituencies and the grassroots. While the rites of passage for every Member of Parliament is a necessary thing involving grassroots work and getting your hands "dirty" (in a noble way), it is a phase you should never walk away from once you have completed it. Voters need to consider the work of the MP, other than just the work of the team the MP belongs to.

Essentially, no party will want to contest just so they can be popular or stay in power. The reason why they are always striving to renew themselves is so that they can help Singapore in areas they identify in need of help. And on the other hand, I feel that Singaporeans are generally insatiable, petty and ungrateful, and there are more people out there who expect others to owe them a living, than those who don't. All the more, it makes grassroots work and politics a tougher challenge. But of course, you may deduce that our shitty attitudes have an intimate relationship with the governance and policies of the PAP government, and the kind of (selfish) people culture they have created. Policy is never independent of the kiasu culture that we have now.

As we are recovering from the economic slump, it will be a good time to have an election, and a team to take us forward. It just depends whether you want to give the PAP the mandate to do that, or not. Our lives are always graded in terms of performances, A B C grades and such, and it is probably time the PAP report card gets its grade. If only the uncontested constituencies had voting too, and since there's only the incumbent PAP, we could have a YES/NO vote for the voters to voice their confidence of their MPs. At least that way, the government would not be able to take for granted that it is a government "voted into power" while we all know that most of it entered Parliament uncontested.

And in the event of a "freak election result", maybe they will start their whole discourse again on "complacency" and blame random/all Singaporeans. "Ya lor, you vote for opposition because you give them sympathy, thinking that they will still not win majority vote, sekali they win majority vote, you complacent kia! We must blame this on complacency! All of us have been complacent!!!" and you have most Singaporeans wondering what the hell is going on.


esther said...

Comparing George Yeo and Low Thia Hiang, George Yeo has done so much for the country as the Minister for Foreign affairs. He is a good man and a very smart one too. Do you know that he did Singapore proud years back by being one of the top students at Harvard University? Who can do a better job by maintaining good relationships globally? Low Thia Hiang? He is far from the mark!

Why do the people of Aljunied want to remove a good capable man and punish him for doing a good job? Just because you want a voice? Where's the justice? Although he's a man of a few words, it does not mean that he is not good enough. I implore the residents of Aljunied. Please do not be emotional.

Wanting to be heard is one thing, removing a good man is another. How would you feel if you have been doing a good job, putting in your best, heart and soul for many years but removed because your boss wants to have a change. You are talking about a fair system. I definitely do not think you are fair to George Yeo!

Sam Ho said...

there's no george yeo in this post.

he's a competent and dedicated gentleman any way, but people also vote based on constituency work and aljunied wasn't the cleanest GRC, and he doesn't have the best team around.

people also care about constituency work/duties. so if the neighbourhood smells like urine and has litter, grass infrequently cut, residents not helped out, nor are their interests represented in parliament, are all these factors 2nd tier to what another MP from another constituency has done on the national/international level?

but that's the nature of democracy. no matter how much good work you put in, you can be voted out. there are some good MPs who bust their butts serving their constituencies, but still get low votes because they happen to belong to a party some people are beginning to lose trust and respect in.