Four years have gone by since the last “watershed” elections of 2011. It is time for the report card on how the Workers’ Party ran a GRC for the first time. Another report card should also be due for the first time there were more than five members of the non-establishment in Parliament.
Report cards aside, the electorate is the true judge on the kind of government desired for Singapore. There are obviously many more political parties, but there are some finer aspects of this election which may have been missed, thus the motivation of some observations.
1.) Candidate Line-Ups
Different parties have completely contrasting fates this time round. In GE2011, many non-establishment parties announce they have “star” squads, or that they were dripping with talent. NSP announced Hazel Poa (no longer in the NSP) and her husband, Tony Tan (not to be confused with the President!). The WP announced Chen Show Mao (still around). The SDP announced Tan Jee Say, Ang Yong Guan (both left to join Singfirst) and Vincent Wijeysingha (left for activism). Even the SPP had its fair share, putting up Benjamin Pwee (now with the DPP) for a contest.
GE2015 does not feature such a “star” cast. NSP has been hit with a string of resignations. The WP unleashed a string of candidates, both of the “star” variety and many young candidates. The SDP has only one prominent candidate (Paul Tambyah). Where did all the rest of the stars from 2011 go?
Honestly, the only conclusion I can derive from them is poor party leadership in many parties. There is simply an inability to keep their “star” catches. While the opposition may claim a united front, different parties stand for different values (read their manifestos). One extremely troubling issue with opposition candidates is party-hopping. It simply fuels speculation of opposition candidates simply wanting to find a political party with the least resistance to Parliament, or using a political party with enough resources as their personal springboard to Parliament. Either way, it cannot possibly auger well for the opposition candidates, even the “star” ones.
2.) Intellectual Ransom on Social Media
Thanks to social media, our attention spans have become shorter. We read headlines, Twitter lines, and nearly nothing more. It is even more hilarious when someone is caught writing a comment based on only the title and not the article itself. The fact that you are reading this suggests you’re the correct target audience for this point: how not to be held at intellectual ransom.
Clearly your Facebook feeds will be inundated with election-related material. Here are three simple ways to stop being held ransom.
Read more than just tidbits. Tidbits might be “comfort food”, but the devil in much of politics is in the details. How would you claim to know how to vote if you have not done due reading on matters of interest, such as housing policy in Singapore? You might find it surprising that you can catch writers who know less than you actually do! Not all writers are believable!
Cross-check. It is easy to cook stories online. All it takes is an article, playing on fears, confirmation bias and a fallacious thought that the article is indeed believable. This used to be a favourite tactic by certain media outlets until they were found spreading rather serious untruths. Each time this happens, ask or read a more objective source. Is the story really true or simply fable?
Critically discuss policy, not politics: this election is definitely about choosing leaders. Politics has a sales element in it; politicians try to convince you that their approach is the best way forward. Often, liberal amount of sugar is used as well! Remove the sugar and ask a few simple questions like, who’s paying for a certain proposal, how much does it cost, trade-offs, who benefits and who loses. Is giving an extra $50 out to each and every household merely just a “political gimmick”?
Simply put, be aware, ask questions, and find out more on the significance of your vote!
3.) The Opposition Swarm
Not all opposition parties are equal. Just as the PAP worries critically about quality for leadership renewal, the opposition parties have worries about quality as well. However, it is for survival. For a country of five million plus, there are way too many opposition parties. Flashback to 2006 GE: there was simply the PAP, WP, SDA and SDP. Granted, the SDA was made up of four component parties, but they were allied.
This election, there are the WP, SPP, NSP, DPP, SDP, Singfirst, PPP, Reform Party and SDA competing under their separate banners. Of which, the WP is contesting about 25 seats while the rest of the opposition parties share the rest of the seats among themselves.
The more interesting aspect is the origin of many of these new parties. The PPP is headed by an ex-NSP secretary-general, while Singfirst is led by an ex-SDP star catch. The DPP is headed by an ex-SPP star catch. Remember, too, that the NSP and SPP broke off from the SDA alliance. Something should prompt the reader: why are there so many different parties sprouting and what do they represent? Why form their own parties instead of consolidating their best candidates under established parties they used to identify themselves with?
I don’t claim to know the answer, but the swarm of parties may turn out to impede the cause of oppositional politics more than help it.