Saturday, September 12, 2015

Confessions of a middle-ground voter

I am a classic middle-ground voter. I am not a die-hard supporter of any party - I support the one with the most rational and convincing plans. In the past, I've voted both for white and for opposition. Over the past 9 days, I've been bombarded with all sorts of rhetoric and passionate pleas on my feed.

But for a want-to-be-rational voter, many of the posts annoyed me tremendously. When you hurl attacks, act yaya papaya, it makes me want to vote your party less. When opposition supporters accuse Ministers of doing nothing but collect their $1m paycheck and shake leg, it makes me want to vote white. (Seriously, they make it sound like we live in North Korea). Conversely, when people tell me to "vote wisely", it makes me want to vote blue. When will people learn that trying to arm-twist others into following your political beliefs has the OPPOSITE effect?

I hear a lot of opposition supporters say they need change, for action. PAP is no action, talk only. This makes me laugh. You only need to talk to people on the ground, the everyday folks, to know that the ruling party had been very busy working their asses off since GE11. I've spoken to so many people who told me that while they want opposition, their MP helped them in this and that. In other words, while the keyboard warriors have been making assumptions about the MIW, painting them as ivory tower caricatures, the MIW have been quietly winning the hearts and votes of their electorate over the past four years. It's very difficult not to vote your MP in when they helped you get a HDB flat or a job.

Using the same argument, what did the opposition DO over the past four years? For many silently watching by the side, WP did nothing, at least nothing that could be chalked up as significant in Parliament. In GE11, people voted WP because they felt PAP was getting too big for their britches. In GE15, many people felt that WP had taken over those britches. A vote is a pledge of trust, not a prize. When people feel that you don't measure up to what is entrusted to you, they take it away the next time. It's a very level-headed decision.

What I'm saying is this was no freak result. No, people didn't vote white because they were scared PAP would not form gahmen. No, it wasn't the new citizens. Don't flatter yourself. As it turned out, the gerrymandering was needless anyway, the swing was so big it wouldn't have mattered. As Cherian George said, Singaporeans are a very pragmatic electorate. People can talk till they're blue in the face about more voices in Parliament but guess what, a voice is just that - a voice. The vast majority of Singaporeans have indicated that they don't want empty talk. They want people who DO. Stop posturing with your big words and your grand ideas. How will you make those ideas happen?

I have since last night, come to realise that majority of Singaporeans are inner rebels. We don't like confrontation so we may not respond to arguments we don't agree with. But it doesn't mean we don't have our own minds. We make our own assessments. The more you shout, the more I'm convinced you are a lunatic and I will show it secretly in the polls. In fact, all the sour grapes by candidates and supporters that have since appeared online only prove to those who voted white that they've indeed made the right choice. Amchio-ing, they are. Incidentally, threatening fellow Singaporeans that they will pay for this decision is akin to LKY threatening Aljunied they will have to repent. See how well that worked out?

Do I wish there are more alternative voices in Parliament? Yes. Do I think it was an unfair playing ground? Yes. But do I think this result is therefore invalid? Not at all. Again, the Singaporean electorate is pragmatic, not stupid. Don't be so bloody condescending. It would do well for the opposition to realise that the best way to win votes is simply to WORK for them. The MIW figured this out the last GE. That's why they're back.


Anonymous said...

Personally, I feel that the opposition operate under very severe constraints. The control of the People's Association under the opposition ward limits their ability to deliver the programmes for the people. I also think its unrealistic for people to expect the opposition to work the ground, given the limitations and the gerrymandering. Some of the opposition parties rely on the support from volunteers and even if they managed to walk every single block before elections, there is no guarantee that the constituency will remain. During the last GE, Singaporeans said that they never had a chance to vote so the opposition presented more options. Now that they had exercised their choice, maybe the opposition parties will be more cautious in the future.

monlim said...

Anon: I do not dispute the unfair playing ground. I know the opposition has an uphill task in terms of resources etc. I don't think people expect the opposition to work the ground (I'm assuming you mean work the ground as in going door to door to meet the people). If that's the reason people didn't vote for opposition, I think it's silly.

Conversely, I also think it's silly when people would say they won't vote PAP because they never see their MP. Wouldn't you prefer your MP to be attending to those who need help rather than knocking on your door all the time, doing PR? But I suspect these are the minority lah, I don't think they're significant in terms of causing the vote swing (esp since you have people who vote for and against PAP for these same reasons).

As for "stronger opposition candidates", I personally liked some of those that WP presented but I read somewhere that PAP had already moved away from the typical scholar/elite mould in recruitment as people complained these were the ones out of touch with reality. Whereas WP was now recruiting from the old PAP scholar/elite mould! So whether it was a "stronger" team in the eyes of the voters was debateable.

Anonymous said...

I completely agree with most of the things you mentioned! Especially the part about "voting wisely" -- as if my vote isn't wise as long as I don't agree with them.

I do feel that it is a little unfair to say that the opposition hasn't been doing anything though. While it is true, it is largely due to the uphill battle they are forced to fight, simply because they are so hopelessly outnumbered in Parliament. For any bills or changes to take effect, majority is needed so it is highly unlikely that anything they propose would be passed. And since they are opposition, there is no chance of them becoming a Minister. There is hardly any chance for them to really effect any changes.

It is the hard truth that the ruling party has the opportunity to "do" more than "talk", and it is perfectly rational for Singaporeans to vote based on the tangible results achieved. However, this is a "vicious cycle" that is very difficult for the opposition to break out of. If we don't give the better-caliber opposition a chance to perform, we can never see how capable they are. But not having seen any results from them, how do we know if they are deserving of our vote? This is the dilemma I am stuck in.

monlim said...

Anon: I agree the opposition has limited power in Parliament. I guess the problem is they haven't even been memorable. Many people felt Chen Shao Mao was a huge letdown - so much promise and nary a peep after that. Also if WP is to have any impact on the ground, it would be in Aljunied. Since that's their turf, it would be the ripest place to demonstrate action. I believe once a constituency falls to an opposition party, if the party can maintain even status quo on municipal issues, people would be more than happy to vote them back, as they realise life goes on as per normal.

However, their vote share dropped and LLL lost her seat, so it would seem that people were not that impressed there either. I used to think that people judge opposition party performance with more laxity than they do the PAP, but going by GE15 results, it would seem not!

I agree with you it's a shame and very difficult for the opposition to break out of this cycle but it's also a reality check then, that Singaporeans will not give free passes, no matter who you are. Hopefully the opposition will not give up and learn from that. The silver lining is that this is a slap in the face for the opportunistic parties who thought they could just use contentious issues to fan the flames and win votes. Unfortunately, they're still in denial and now blaming everyone but themselves.

Anonymous said...

hi Monica, kjj here. i had supported the opposition in GE2011 by gg to their rallies and generally making an ass of myself among friends and family members. WP's win in Aljunied meant that Singapore lost not 1 but 2 experienced ministers. the significance of my support (moral only cos i'm not an Aljunied resident) wasn't lost on me.

this year, for GE2015, i wanted to be sure that whoever i supported could really do Singaporeans proud in Parliament, at home and on the global stage. this year, i told myself, the vote that i cast will decide who could be the Prime Minister of Singapore. looking at the 5 opposition candidates in my constituency, well, i can assure you, NONE of them would get my vote! (my one precious vote!!!!!)

anyway, just for the campaign period (since that was pretty much when the opposition candidates came alive) i want to add that the PAP candidates were RELENTLESS in their efforts. see my in-laws stay in Bishan. first, one sister in law saw Josephine Teo at an AMK wet market at 7am. then at Bishan MRT at 8ish am. another day later, there were a knock on the flat's door at dinner time (7:30pm) which no one opened (cos we thought, uh-oh..) and a PAP flyer was slipped under the door. 2 days later, early in the morning, Josephine Teo showed up at the flat. So, no choice, my in-laws ended up talking to her. She wanted to know what they'd like their MP to do more of, not the shake-hand-take-a-selfie type of encounter.

4 encounters in that 9 days of campaigning!!! i was impressed because it showed how much the PAP wanted the job.

so for those who said that we should give the opposition a chance, well, i'd say that every candidate has to show that he or she truly wants the job (assuming that every one has equally impressive credentials). whether that meant more book signings, more lorries with loudspeakers, more heart-wrenching videos, more blogs / tweets / FB posts, more pictures with babies or fish sellers, more whatever!

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