choice

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Photographer:
Ailin Liefeld for Freunde von Freunden

Today is 7 May, Polling Day.

A few of you wanted to know more about how the elections and politics in Singapore. It's hard to sum it up and my own feelings about the subject are still developing, so it's probably going to sound on the jumbled side.

The ruling party in Singapore, in power since independence in 1965, has had an extraordinarily successful run - primarily because under its dominance it took Singapore from a developing country, a former colonial outpost with no natural resources except for its geographical local as an advantage, into a developed country in a span of 40 years.

I admire greatly the work of our founding fathers, but I've always believed that past results are no guarantee of future performance, and I've always hoped for more credible Opposition parties to step to the plate and deliver the alternative voices and check on power we need.

And this year, the Opposition delivered an extraordinarily well-qualified crop of candidates (there are still jokers, but we have come a long way, trust me). All but five seats in the Parliament are being contested (uncontested seats automatically return to the incumbent, in a situation we call a walkover) - and for the first time in a long time, we are truly measuring what Singaporeans want (in the last election, there were seven walkovers).

I believe self-awareness is one of the hardest things to achieve in a person, and the same goes for any organisation or collective power. I do not believe that a party with such dominant power will be able effectively govern and correct its own flaws and mistakes and I believe the time has come for a change where credible alternative representatives should be elected, and the fat from the ruling party trimmed. And I can point to several performance lapses in the last five years since the last election that supports my point, but I shall not bore the non-resident readers. This post here by a local blogger might help, if you are interested.

We've finally reached a point where some of us have a real chance at making a difference with our vote, because the Opposition party has given itself a kick in the pants to really give Singaporeans genuine choice, and I appreciate that deeply.

We are riding on a momentum we might not see again. Will Singapore see change, and change for the better? I'm almost afraid to hope. We're a pragmatic lot that doesn't thrive on change, and the superiority of the ruling power is deeply engrained in us, me included. Overnight change, revolution, that's not our style.

But the important thing is that choice has finally come to us, perhaps even too soon for many of us to contemplate and make a truly considered decision (so many of us are politically immature). But I feel privileged to be able to mark this moment, and to know what hope and possibility looks like. It's a reminder not to settle for less.

Picture from freunde von freunden

Comments

Amanda said…
It's an ingrained thing in the Asian culture to avoid conflict and revolution until things get really bad. And even then, we're an apathetic lot. I just wish that people were more informed, weren't swayed by corrupt politics and would use their votes in a way that counts. I also wished that our governments wouldn't take advantage of the gullible nature of its citizens. I hope that the outcome of the Singapore election would be positive enough spur the same progress and change in the nation across the strait. And hopefully, after 40 years, the word independence and democracy would actually mean it's suppose to mean.
K. said…
Bravo for the election and for your informative post! I am from Hong Kong myself and since the handover back to China 14 years ago, we struggle to move forward in our road to democracy against the PRC influence and resistance. I hope we will strive keep moving to achieve democracy, sustainable development and also equity within our societies. There is no real prosperity without the citizens' voices being heard.
editor said…
fantastic post. thank you so much. you brought this home to me better than any other article could, or has. through you, i feel invested in the outcome.
cdeemurphy said…
great post. it sounds like an exciting time and i hope the elections bring about some of the change you desire. unfortunately, the recent election in my home country, canada, did not go as i hoped, but regardless i feel that it is such a privilege to be able to vote and can only wish more people were politically engaged. i will be following to see the outcome :-)
angie said…
I think I understand your hope for a change for the better for your country as well as your frustration that things will not go as fast as you expect because there is still a lot of political immature around.
A change in politics can have a big effect in everyday life and if politicians have a vision then good things come out of it.
In my country, Greece, at the moment ,we are stuck with a bunch of morons,excusez moi the lanqquage,and people don't hope much for the future.Still the society is not ready for a big change that we so much need.
I wish that in your country this fressssh air of change for the better will be around the corner.
Samantha said…
Hi it's me again :)

Yesterday was truly an emotional day for me and I believe for most Singaporeans. Although I was both happy and disappointed with the results, I'm optimistic it will only get better and I identify myself more strongly than ever as a Singaporean.

What you've raised is something I really identify with. This GE was more divisive than ever before. I was constantly frustrated by the views of those around me who did not understand that past performance does not guarantee future success. Or those who could not longer differentiate the government (and civil service) and the PAP as a party, as two separate entities, which is probably to the benefit of the PAP. It's truly sad how the political values of the older and younger generation alike have been molded to what they are by our educational and political system. However I'm still optimistic given the political awakening among Singaporeans that was especially apparent for this GE.

For my previous comment I apologize, it was only after my comment that I realize it was insensitive of me to ask for your employer on a public sphere.
I may not have been able to judge ST for myself this time round since I don't have physical access to it and based my perspective on it through their online platform and online media's opinions, which most definitely weren't neutral.

This is turning into an essay so maybe we should discuss it through emails like you said. Only if it won't bore you too much! I'm just happy that I have someone who's 'on the inside' and have a genuine interest to discuss such matters with. My friends are mostly apathetic or misinformed.
Drop me an email any time you're free or are in the mood for such discussion, no pressure or hurry at all :)
Wow, it seems so strange to me. We Aussies are a vocal and heavily opinionated lot that love nothing more that instigating political change - for better or worse - and our last state election was indicative of this (the opposition party smashed the incumbent government after close to 20yrs in the wilderness). Now that my brother is living in your country I am intrigued all over again by your political situation. How did it all go (in your opinion)?
son said…
its interesting that you make this point, because to outside eyes singapore is an incredible success story. it must be quite exciting though to see the sand shifting, however gradual it may be, more so to be involved in it.
being from a neighbouring country i wish my countrymen would start facing up to real issues in a mature way, rather than squabbling over petty politics.
lin said…
I'm too tired to write a good post about the outcome, but when I sort out my thoughts, I will!

Amanda: I do that myself, saying "it can't be that bad". It's something I still have to consciously remind myself to snap out of.

K: I agree. Singaporeans seem to understand that concept, but a lot of people don't want to trade a sense of security for change. I suppose one upside is that people consider carefully before they vote.

editor: Thanks!

cdeemurphy: Sorry that outcome in Canada wasn't what you hoped for. I was a little disappointed by what happened here as well but overall it was a positive outcome.

angie: My mum feels the same way about her native Taiwan and its previous administration so I feel some of your frustration. Such a state of affairs in countries around S'pore is what makes some people vote for the safety and familiarity of the ruling party.
lin said…
samantha: Hi! I was a little bummed as well because I was rooting for Chiam See Tong and his party to win in my constituency, but alas. The real shame was his wife losing Potong Pasir too. Will email you soon!

La fille mal gardee: I'm sure politics here must seem rather strange to foreigners; in Singapore, people had always seem politicians from any other party than the ruling party as oddballs and people who protest for the sake of protesting...but that's changing, thank goodness.

son: Singapore is an incredible success story; it's just that the ruling party isn't quite what it used to be. Where are you from?
Samantha said…
Oh you're in Bishan-TPY GRC! I have been living in Potong Pasir since birth (20 years) so naturally I'm a huge supporter of Chiam See Tong :)

I was rooting for him and his team of course but I did know that there was a high chance of him not winning. 43% was quite a good result though given how many of the residents don't know him that well personally.

And regarding Potong Pasir I was really emotional and devastated and still am. There's this petition going on for a by-election on the grounds of the questionable vote counting process. I'm not sure if it will work and I'm not sure if it's the right thing to do since it undermines the democratic voting process (though it may not be that democratic given how many questions have been raised about it)... but it's heartwarming to know the strong support and emotional connection of PP residents with the Chiams. If only more of them voted with their hearts and with a clear mind. Personally I feel that Sitoh is a person of questionable integrity...
editor said…
Hi Lin, saw the results...
I noticed how you spoke of your country, with ownership, throughout your posts on this election. We always say we'll move out of the US if certain candidates were ever elected. I admire your commitment and investment.
Lindsay K said…
Excellent post! I'm sure you have so many mixed and conflicting emotions. I love that you shared this.

On another note, you must be exhausted. I hope you can get a little rest.
lin said…
samantha: PP resident! My friend was so depressed about the outcome. Anyway, emailed you!

lin: thanks for taking an interest...Singapore politics has always been viewed a certain way by the western media, but I hope I was able to convey a more subtle sense of what is going on. Interesting, my friends and I joked that we might have to emigrate if the opposition parties didn't win ANY seats - it wld have felt that the rest of the Singaporeans wanted a different country from us. But I think ultimately I feel a sense of ownership here, and much as I believe I can settle comfortably in any country, I don't think the situation here is something to give up on yet.

lindsay: I am! At least the last few days have eased up for me. I've sorted out my thoughts on this but it will also be interesting to see how I feel some months from now...

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