I usually prefer to steer clear of politics, but I felt I had to write this.
It was with quiet optimism that I joined the crowds at Hougang Stadium last night to await the results of the 2015 General Election. Like many, I believed that change was in the air and was looking forward to a more balanced political landscape and a greater opposition presence in government. But as the results streamed in throughout the night and into the wee hours of the morning, joy turned to despair as team after team from the opposition was beaten by the ruling party. Each announcement brought bad news that was greeted by groans and head shaking; the crowd got progressively smaller as people left, unable to take any more of the carnage.
It quickly became clear that the governing party had been returned to power; there was no doubt in most people’s minds that there would be any other outcome, but it was the crushingly wide margin it won by that came as a shock. It was a huge blow to the opposition and will definitely trigger much analysis and reflection, as well as major rethinking of strategies.
I witnessed and was part of the masses pledging support at the opposition rallies. It saddens me to see the results. How did sentiment change to lead to such a sharp upswing of votes for the ruling party across nearly all constituencies? Many theories online point to swing voters, new citizens, sympathy votes for our founding prime minister, and those who were lured by goodies handed out during this Jubilee year. Whatever the reasons, the results signal that my countrymen seem to want more of the same arrogance, myopic self-serving policies, and patriarchal approach to governing that has marked the last twenty years.
In a taxi on the way home, the driver asked me if a certain minister was right to have uttered disparaging remarks about our neighbours in the north during a rally speech. I replied that even if he held those views personally, he shouldn’t have made those comments. The driver agreed and said well, he won anyway, so there you go. I think that sums up how broken the system is: that no matter what the ruling party does, there is an unfortunately large segment of the population that will continue to endorse it even when its shortcomings and fallacies are so glaringly obvious.
It was an election where the achievements of the past fifty years took precedence over a new vision for the next fifty, where fear overruled reason and judgement, where conformity and upholding of the status quo triumphed over the need for more diverse views and representation in Parliament. This is no democracy. This is the power of a government that will stop at nothing to maintain its iron grip by beating down its opponents mercilessly with fear mongering, name-calling and underhanded tactics. Nevermind if the opposition has constructive, sound ideas that are worth discussing. Nevermind if they are willing to work together with the ruling party to take the country forward. The relentless machinery of the ruling party ensures that anyone who remotely disagrees with it will have their voices drowned out or be crippled by lawsuits.
I don’t believe in a government that is out of touch with the struggles of ordinary people and thinks that it is right all the time. This does not mean that I am an ungrateful young person who has nothing else better to do than complain, or worse, oppose for the sake of opposing. Like the majority of Singaporeans, I cherish and appreciate the peace and stability that our forefathers worked so hard to achieve, and we wouldn’t be here today if not for their sacrifices. But the style of hard-fisted leadership the older generation lived under will not work in this modern age, and this is something the government fails to grasp, time and time again. This election has shown that old mindsets are hard to change, and we still have a long way to go before we can become a more mature and open society. Only time will tell how the next five years will turn out.