09 May 2011
Singapore General Election 2011 is over. For the first time since independance, all but 5 seats, were contested. You can read all about GE2011 in the news, online social media, etc. Many people also, for the first time, get to vote and I'm not talking about people who just reached the legal voting age (i.e. 21 years old).
Some of my peers were sort of caught off guard, thinking that their constituency would be a walkover. They, like me a decade ago, made last minute scramble for information about the candidates and parties contesting in their SMC/GRC.
If you're one of them, you may want to read on. Please note that the following is just an opinion, my opinion. You have every right to form your own opinion and come to a conclusion on HOW you might want to vote, in the next GE.
In GE2001, when I first got to vote, I knew close to nothing about the incumbent and absolutely nothing about the contender. There was a frantic seach in the internet, the fastest means to get information, on the candidates. I saw their CVs... both equally impressive but not enough for me to decide. There were close to nothing else in the internet since election campaigning on the internet then was not allowed. Furthermore, there were very little news and articles about Singapore politics and politicians on the internet then.
I attended the contender's rally but walked out before the candidate spoke. Reason being that a lot of the speeches were about why we should not be voting for the incumbent. I wanted to know why I should be voting for him which I did not get to hear. I didn't attend the rally of the incumbent since my decision was more of less formed at that point. So come Polling Day (2001), my decision was based on who had done something for the constituents BUT I wasn't satisfied with this approach. What can anyone, who is not an MP, do for the constituents? If I were to maintain such a position, does it not naturally mean that I will forever be voting for the incumbent? Only to swing when the incumbent did nothing (or perhaps screw up) and the contender perhaps setup free clinics/tuition centres/bus service etc? If it is that simple, maybe I should vote for the cleaner who sweep my corridor almost everyday should he stand for election.
Nevertheless, I spent the next 5 years before the next GE to read up about the candidates. Starting with the Parliament Papers and following whatever websites that talk about politics and politicians in Singapore. Parliament papers was a good place to start off with since there, you'll get to read what the MPs and NCMPs got to say about the policies, their views and positions. There is a problem relying solely on Parliament Papers though (which I encountered in GE2006), you won't know (if there is) what a new candidate has to say. Following the internet can be difficult too because you have to first establish the objectivity of a particular website before you want to trust what is written on that website... provided you find websites that talk about politics in Singapore then.
GE2006 came and I thought I was better prepared but there was a change in the candidates. SHIT. Now, I have to devote some time to determine who this new chap was and all I got was his CV. It was also during and just before GE2006 was announced, I concluded that looking at the personalities and qualities of the candidates are not only subjective but missing a bigger picture about election. If ONLY the personalities and qualities of a candidate count, why have political parties in the first place? What is a political party? It was also during GE2006 that I got to find out what is a Manisfesto but had little time to digest the contents of the Manisfestoes. It was also in GE2006 where internet seemed to be more active but still inadequate to provide information due to laws prohibiting election campaigning. However, by Polling Day (2006), I've looked beyond personal characteristics and included policies the candidates had to offer, to form the decision I took to mark my vote. I was still not satisfied.
Beyond GE2006, with more websites and avenues offering social and political information in Singapore, I went on to seek for more. I read about politics in general. I read about the political history of Singapore. I read about the diffifferent approaches used in different countries with regards to how elections are conducted. I asked myself many questions and attempt to seek the answers. I am still seeking the answers to some of the questions.
In GE2011, I voted and I am satisfied with my vote. No only I get to read up the CV of the candidates, I read their position and policies. I read about the kind of Singapore they want to build. I read about how they intend to serve the contituents and beyond the contituency, how they want to serve Singapore Citizens.
What I no longer look at is their academic qualifications, track record (unless that candidate is THE PERSON setting that record) or the backing he/she/them is likely to receive from the party.
I voted base on that he/she/the party has to offer for Singapore and how likely they can truly convince the parlimentarians, who are also representatives of their respective constituencies.