Sunday, May 8, 2011

Congratulations Singapore!

Few saw it coming.

Two weeks ago, many scarcely entertained the idea that they would ever witness history unfolding in the form of the Singapore General Election 2011. For many, to consider the potential of the opposition parties in Singapore posing its greatest challenge yet into the thick armor of the PAP’s polished war machine was unthinkable. But that changed, and tonight the election outcome speaks for itself.

While PAP still remains the ruling party, yet the mandate (60.14%) that they received tonight is the lowest ever in its history of elections. Along with that, the loss of Aljunied GRC and the Minister of Foreign Affairs, Mr George Yeo, is a heavy loss to the ruling party. In addition, winning over Marine Parade, Tampines, Moulmein-Kallang by GRC teams led by key cabinet ministers against opposition that are considerably light-weights with very small margin is also an indication of ground sentiments of the PAP. Prior to this, the lowest mandate ever received by the PAP was 61% in 1991, under the leadership of Mr Goh Chok Tong. Immediately after that election, reforms were introduced to improve the public sentiment.

When announcement of the ensuing election was anticipated months ago, many considered, then, that the opposition parties were still to weak as far as the caliber of candidates are concern or that the opposition are seemingly to disperse and un-united to challenge the governing party that has been dominant ever since the independence of this red nation. Well, at least that’s what the mainstream media told us.

That perception changed once nomination day came, especially when the opposition offered very credible candidates in their line-up, one particular Chen Show Mao from the Worker’s Party certainly impressed me substantially along with the articulate Dr Vincent Wijeysingha from the Singapore Democratic Party. I was equally excited to know that Tony Tan Lay Thiam and wife, Hazel Poa (PSC scholars and all) were contesting at my constituency Choa Chu Kang.

Furthermore, aside for Punggol East SMC (with Worker’s Party, Singapore Democratic Alliance and People’s Action Party contesting), the other constituencies (GRC or SMC) saw only a two-party contest. This suggests that there is, in fact, coordination and fruitful outcomes from discussions by the opposition during the pre-elections.

In the last nine days of campaigning, we saw many ordinary (and not so ordinary) Singaporeans overcome the “fear barrier” that has insofar existed in Singapore by expressing their opinions and thoughts clearly on social media and other platforms. This most heavily contested election also saw massive crowds especially in opposition rallies. On average, the Worker’s Party pulled 30,000 participants for each of their rallies and who can forget Pritam Singh leading the huge crowd in reciting the Singapore pledge!

Interestingly enough, this election also saw PAP, for the first time, to be on their back foot and having to defend their policies (i.e. Mah Bow Tan, etc.) and even apologizing for some of the mistakes that the administration have made (i.e. PM Lee, Dr Vivian Balakrishnan). I can only imagine what would happen when there are more opposition in parliament. What sort of check and balance would that bring into the parliament? What sort of policy-making process and accountability of our leaders would we, Singaporeans, experienced?

So, the dynamism seen in this election bode well for Singapore and the maturing of its political scene into a more robust system of governance that is accountable to the people that it serves. Many “hot-button” issues were raised in this election and I am sure the PAP is taking down notes. With the lowest ever mandate in Singapore’s history, the PAP would do well to realize that it cannot be business as usual.

Things need to change. In addressing the lament of the people, policies need to be relooked; new fundamentals need to be identified and fresher performance indicators need to be agreed upon - which goes beyond economic growth. In fact a new economic model or approach that benefits the people need to be thought of (i.e. greater focus and emphasize on enterprise, more applicable research product, empowerment, etc.).

Today, Singaporeans have given a clear message that change must come. The leaders from the ruling party, in their speeches, leading up to election and after seem to have understood this. Now, we look forward to see all this in action.

I think, this election has reminded the leaders that it is the people whom these leaders serves and not the other way round. To ask the people to “repent” for their decisions or approaching them in an unreasonable and high-handed manner is not the way to go, anymore. For the next five years, the ruling party has all this time to make the changes mentioned above, otherwise, they will find it more difficult to receive the validation and legitimacy during the next election.

Majulah Singapura.

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