The Wannabe Votes For The First Time | Polling Day Singapore 2011

This is not a political post, and I am not taking any sides (not obviously, anyway). I’m writing this simply because not only is it kinda weird for a Singaporean who blogs to not bother to mention anything in it about our elections; I also just want to. After all, here in Singapore, we get to vote or be vocal only once every 5 years. If you’ve got something to say or do, say or do it now because such times are the only times you’re gonna get someone to at least feign attention. I’m sure it’s the same in any other country with people who get to vote. Or in any other non-political situation even.

Take a diner in a restaurant who is made to wait forever for her food. To avoid flak, the servers ignore her wherever possible until an unlucky bastard is stopped and has no choice but to attend to her. The diner asks nicely at first and the server asks nicely back for her to wait because the kitchen is too busy. This goes on until the diner finally explodes and the server succumbs to fetch her her food magically within seconds when it had to take forever previously. My point is: working in service really sucks.

But I digress. Today marks me as a 22-year-old getting to vote for the first time for a party to rule my constituency for the next 5 years. I am lucky. But the truly incredible thing is: the name of my contested constituency is not the name of the neighbourhood that I live in. It’s like saying it’s right to call a doughnut a bagel. I don’t know if this is a ‘Uniquely Singaporean’ thing. (Yes, that’s an actual tag line for a local tourism campaign but now it has mutated into ‘YourSingapore’)

And yesterday when I was on the bus; it was a short trip but I found myself whizzing through SIX goddamn constituencies. It’s hilarious because Singapore is literally tiny. It’s like having a small-ass cake cut up into 27 slices, and I guess I should be happy if I managed to fight for at least a dash of icing. I suppose ‘YourSingapore’ is all about micro-managing, and I am too young and naive to appreciate the supposed beauty of it. But if it has indeed been working, why are we seeing something like this on YouTube? (Warning: Plenty of local terms ahead)

There’s a lot more where that came from, as you can see from the suggestions and comments. And Facebook and Twitter. And in conversations with chatty taxi uncles. Or gossipy market aunties. Or rebellious youths like me who finally get to vote. Or real people living here in reality.

Check out this piece on us in The Guardian. It has been a very long while since Singaporeans have been so involved and worked up about local politics, because we assumed the already ruling party to continue winning against the opposition anyway. The younger generation especially, has been accused for years for not being passionate enough about home affairs. A common rebuttal was that we weren’t exactly given anything to be passionate about.

I’m sorry, was that supposed to be a choice?

But something happened this time round. There are more opposition parties standing up, more angry folks speaking up, more sadly stressed candidates crying and saying the wrong things while desperately trying to win votes over, and more people having to apologise as a result. It’s actually really cool.

A record-breaking variety of opposing tools, natural elements and shapes.

Nomination Day Singapore 2011

People’s Action Party Government Whip, Lim Swee Say, crying at his farewell party.

People’s Action Party Chairman, Lim Boon Heng, crying while telling his tale of how ministers have thankless jobs.

People’s Action Party Health Minister, Khaw Boon Wan, in the rain, crying tears of gratitude for those concerned for his health.

National Solidarity Party Candidate, Nicole Seah, crying at a rally while telling the story of a mother who couldn’t afford her son’s tuition.

According to People’s Action Party Candidate, Tin Pei Ling, healthcare and education costs are very low in Singapore, and it is okay to bitch on Facebook on Cooling Off Day.

According to People’s Action Party National Development Minister, Mah Bow Tan, public housing will REMAIN affordable and it is okay for someone paid $15k per month to not know what the word ‘remain’ really means.

Reform Party Chief, Kenneth Jeyaretnam,was quick to apologise for misquoting Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong, but still thinks it’s okay to smile extremely creepily into a camera and present himself consistently as someone who hasn’t slept in decades.

Reform Party Chief and suspected insomniac, Kenneth Jeyaretnam, smiling creepily.

People’s Action Party Prime Minister, Lee Hsien Loong, apologising to Singaporeans.
Countdown to Polling Day: 4 days

The opposition appears to be putting up a pretty tough fight this time round against the dudes in power. With the Internet approved as an official channel for parties to use to reach out to unhappy Singaporeans sulking amongst us, support for the opposition finally found that loud voice it truly deserves. A voice big enough to capture precious moments like these:

People’s Action Party Foreign Minister, George Yeo, admits that the People’s Action Party needs to change its ways.
Countdown to Polling Day: 1 day

People’s Action Party Prime Minister, Lee Hsien Loong, gets down on his elbows and chats on Facebook.

Legendary – wait for it – dary #FAIL

I suppose there is only so much one can take.

That being said, it must be acknowledged that Singaporeans – or actually anyone in general – really love to bitch and complain about everything because nothing is ever good enough. The grass is forever greener and lusher on the other side; so no matter how well you may be fed, how safe you really are, or how fortunate you already am; it will never be good enough. But it is undeniable that the ruling party has indeed done an excellent job at keeping us alive so far. To be honest, the world has been having it really bad these days but we are all still – well – obviously alive and pretty dope. Something we should all be thankful for.

But beyond that, how is it possible that there are still so many glum folks out there? Do we not know what’s good for us or is our unhappiness completely justifiable? How is it that majority of us are naturally inclined towards cheering for these people who live to speak up for us:

Singapore People’s Party Chief, opposition veteran and stroke victim, Mr. Chiam See Tong, standing up with his badly hunched back of 76 years to fight for democracy.

Workers’ Party chief, Low Thia Khiang, takes a major risk and steps out of his comfort zone in Hougang to fight for his vision: A First World Parliament.

Singapore Democratic Party Candidate, Dr Vincent Wijeysingha, assures Singaporeans, “I have no other agenda than your agenda.”

Workers’ Party Chairman, Sylvia Lim, urges a political awakening by supporting the opposition into Parliament.

As much as we can’t deny that the people in white or their assistants have been doing their jobs, it is also extremely true that the existence of strong, opposing voices in Parliament helps to keep everyone grounded on their feet at all times. Which is supposed to be the case, but as you can see, the word ‘sorry’ has been rather hot recently. I stress: recently. 

You see, the fact that the ruling party here has been in power for so long has not only weakened the opposition greatly; they have also weakened themselves and their ability to listen. With a different voice around however to keep heads in check, Singaporeans might find fewer things to complain about because a real change has been implemented. Perhaps we’ll find something else to whine about instead. Like, why isn’t my life turning for the better yet? Is the opposition really doing something? Why are people still living on the streets? Why is it getting harder and harder to stretch my paycheck? Why is it still impossible for me to vomit my mind even though I’ve been promised the right to do so? Am I no longer Singaporean just because I voted for someone else?

Before we know it, this might be how things will turn out eventually:

I pray to be gone by then.

Like I said, there’s always something to bitch about. If the People’s Action Party took the opposition’s humble position and the latter came into power instead, the former would be the party garnering the most cheer today.

But I seriously doubt it. One, if a choice was not supposed to be made in the first place, then don’t go around telling people they have one. Two, as real people who just want to survive in peace, we do so by working hard for ourselves. By ourselves. We do not expect to depend on the government; but in desperate times of need, a helping hand with true intention and ability to help comes in like rain to a drought. It is not an equivalent to leeching on power. But some people just don’t get it.

Give me a chance to give you a choice.

Countdown to Polling Day Results: 1 hour


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