As someone who will be exercising her right to vote for the first time in the upcoming General Elections (GE), to say that I am excited is an understatement. Never did I imagine that my first voting experience would take place during a global pandemic. Still, if South Korea could pull off a Parliamentary Election during the height of COVID-19, I’m sure logistically, this would be no sweat for our island-nation.
If you’re unfamiliar with the GE or politics in general, here are some facts for you to have a better understanding of what’s going on.
The next GE must be held by 14 April 2021 and it will elect the Members of Parliament to the 14th Parliament of Singapore. Thus far, in the lead up to this, the Electoral Boundaries Review Committee has convened on 1 August 2019 and released a report on 13 March 2020, revealing changes to the boundaries of many existing constituencies. So be sure to double-check on how this may affect the GRC that represents your area.
Many believe that GE will take place sooner than later as the Parliamentary Elections (COVID-19 Special Arrangements) Bill was passed in Parliament on 4 May 2020 and was enacted into operation by the Prime Minister on 26 May 2020. This bill allows those who are subjected to COVID-19 Stay Home Orders to vote outside their electoral divisions.
With the COVID-19 situation rapidly improving in Singapore, it will not come as a surprise if GE takes place very soon as the week-long school holiday will take place between 18-26 July 2020. It will be the perfect time for elections to take place as schools are always used as polling stations during polling day.
With all that’s said, I believe that PAP will probably win the next GE if it’s held in July and here are six reasons why.
1. Because we were once hailed as the poster child on efficient coronavirus spread
Remember when the rest of the world was singing our praises because our government managed to efficiently contain the spread of COVID-19 with no initial fatalities until the migrant worker cluster proved that no government is perfect?
I remember feeling immensely proud when I came across the words ‘Singapore’ and ‘Posterchild’ in a headline together. It really gave me hope that Singapore would have COVID-19 under control, and the nation would be able to live life with minimal disruptions. But to expect that would be unrealistic, as the prevention of spread not only lies in the hands of the government but it’s people as well.
Despite the migrant workers’ cluster, I still have reason to believe that people would vote PAP simply because they were so far removed from that oversight. Singaporeans might complain at the failure of our leadership, but as long as it does not concern them directly, I don’t see how the migrant worker cluster would affect their vote.
2. PAP is using mainstream media effectively
If you’re unaware, our government will be addressing the nation twice a week for the next three weeks. PM Lee made the first speech on 7 June 2020, titled Overcoming the crisis of a generation. Next in line, is Minister Lawrence Wong who addressed the nation on 9 June 2020, with his speech addressing the theme of Living with COVID-19.
The following speech televised on 11 June 2020, with Senior Minister Teo Chee Hean talking about Resilience in a Changing External Environment in his speech. Deputy Prime Minister Heng Swee Keat, Senior Minister Tharman Shanmugaratnam, and Minister Chan Chun Sing are lined up to address the nation as well.
These speeches will be made until 20 June 2020. Now, of all times to address the country in what can only be best described as a political rally, why now? Why have our top Ministers address the nation every other night, back to back when they could have done this at the height of COVID-19, or when the migrant cluster took over the media and our government could have used some good old PR?
Why would our government want us to familiarise their faces now when they’ve always operated so mysteriously? It’s because they want their citizens to familiarize themselves with the faces of the leaders they should be electing. So when campaigning comes around, voters would probably be more receptive to a familiar face. It’s also to subtly remind voters that they are the government that’s leading Singapore during these trying times of COVID-19 and that they are the only ones that have everything under control.
3. Opposition parties cannot effectively campaign
Campaigning during this period will be unprecedented and challenging. How are our opposition parties going to connect with voters who are not as technologically savvy if they cannot greet them on the ground? When Parliament dissolves, Nomination Day must take place five days to a month from dissolution. From Nomination Day, there will be a nine-day minimum campaigning period followed by a Cooling-Off day before polling.
The current ruling party already has an advantage with June’s month-long speeches to ensure that voters will be familiar with their party’s faces, without breaching any laws on campaigning before the campaigning period. And the opposition cannot do anything about it, because I’m sure even if they attempt to have some semblance of a campaign on social media outside of the campaigning period, they will be penalised.
So unless opposition parties already have strong social media presences to remind voters of their existence, I doubt the majority of Singaporeans will bother to find out for themselves.
4. They gave us money and welfare
If I weren’t that keen on being more politically aware, I would probably not be that interested in finding out what opposition parties can offer our nation because I am satisfied with the status quo. I think our government’s response to COVID-19 has been more than adequate. The way our government reacted and took care of the situation here in Singapore proved to me that they are more than capable of running our nation.
Welfare support such as the creation of the National CARE Hotline, distribution of free facemasks, and the cash payouts are enough to appease me as a voter. If you’re unaware, this is not the first time that the government has given Singaporeans cash payouts before an election. It happened before in 2006 and 2011. Money makes the world go round, and I’m sure this is what people would remember the most when considering their vote.
5. We are all bark and no bite
Other than the well-educated or those who have an interest in politics, the average citizen is less concerned about what the opposition has to offer. We as a nation are professional complainers, who will point out inadequacies, whine and moan about a handful of issues but most of us deign to make an effort to be the change we want to see.
We are too child-like as a citizenry to provide solutions and answers when we disagree with something. Yes, the youth of our population is more politically aware now given the global political climate that we live in. But how can we see more opposition seats in Parliament if they have never been given a chance to prove themselves?
My father told me to not write anything related to politics for fear of repercussions. He is not the only one who thinks like this. But, if we don’t push the fold, if we don’t at least listen to what opposition parties have to say, things will remain the same, and the cycle will never end.
How can we continue to stay relevant and move forward as a country if one singular party has always reigned supreme? Don’t fix it if it ain’t broke, but how can we improve if debates barely exist and genuine concerns get shut down simply because they are the majority?
Is it not concerning that our narrative has been told by the same storyteller since the modernization of our country?
6. Speaking about anything other than COVID-19 would be tone-deaf
If this GE took place in a COVID-19 free reality, we would have a totally different election. Opposition parties would be able to address issues that PAP have overlooked and champion them as they campaign. The only thing the opposition can really draw attention to now would be the mishandling of the migrant worker’s cluster and how they would better handle it if they had a majority government.
COVID-19 has captured Singaporean’s full attention, such that anything else that the opposition would want to address will appear out of touch. It sounds ridiculous but we are often too preoccupied with matters at hand and cannot multitask to consider issues that might affect us in the future.
Regardless of whether GE will take place in July or September, I hope this piece sparks some form of political awareness and analytical thought within you. Do we have a lot to be thankful for our current government? Yes. Will PAP hold a majority in Parliament? Probably.
But it does not hurt to give opposition parties your time and hear them out when they’re allowed to campaign. It will definitely take more than one or even two elections, but I believe as we evolve as a society, so will our politics. Let’s be the change we want to see, let us take our vote seriously.
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