Thursday, June 09, 2005

Presidential Election & Protest Voting

Presidential Election & Protest Voting

So far, 13 forms for Presidential Election have been taken, but none has been submitted. Will we have a contest in Singapore?

Even if there are submission, the applicants must get “COE” from the selection committee. The constitution says that the President shall be “ELECTED” by the citizens. But it seems that before you could do that, the committee has already screened through and determined for you who are eligible for your selection.

Of course, the reasons given are all good. It seems that the committee has better judgement on each applicant’s character to determine whether he is a man of great integrity. Even if they have satisfied all the stringent criteria, the committee will have the final say whether the applicants have good character and integrity. We need the “safe guard” to make sure the “safe guard” of the National Reserves is good? So who is the ultimate “safe guard”?

However, looking from another perspective, don’t they trust us as the citizens and voters that could make good judgement and vote for the right man to be our President? If not, then the argument could extend forward to General Elections of MPs whom may be appointed to be Ministers that have more executive powers!

When PM Lee HL took over the baton last year, he talked about cutting the apron string. However, isn’t this system of Presidential Election a big apron string needed to be cut? We don’t need to be told who we could or could not trust and vote for.

The problem lies not in the “quality” of the presidential candidates. The problem lies with the habit of “Protest Voting”. Back in 1993, the first election of President was effected. Former DPM, Mr. Ong Teng Cheong, endorsed by the PAP, stood against Mr. Chua Kim Yeow, a relatively unknown civil servant. Mr. Ong, backed by the union and his ex-party colleagues, campaigned aggressively while Mr. Chua only did a symbolic appearance on TV.

Surprisingly to many and alarming to PAP, Mr. Ong won with a mere 58.7%, in spite of his good reputation and aggressive campaigning. Many political observers take the result as a reflection of “Protest Votes” cast by many Singaporeans, against the PAP government. It has many implications. It means that there is a big bulk of voters who are unhappy with the PAP, instead of Mr. Ong. They have taken the opportunity of the Presidential Elections to demonstrate their unhappiness.

This is an unhealthy voting pattern, even though from the opposition’s perspective, it is to our advantage if there are more “protest votes”. Voters become “irrational” when they start to treat their votes as a good mean to “signal” to PAP their dissatisfactions. Mr. Ong has proven himself to be a great president that is daring enough to stretch his limits and even risk stress in the relation between him and his past comrades in the attempt to institutionalized the new system of Elected President.
“Protest Voting” phenomenon is not healthy at all. And from the past elections when PAP started to use HDB upgrading to “lure” voters, even to the precinct level to counteract such “Protest Voting”, we could see that protest voters are quickly subdued. Most Protest Voters would consider twice about using their votes as protest when their immediate well being is being affected by their actions. Ironically, they should protest even more when such unfair tactic is used instead of giving up their protest! I feel that such Protest Voting is the result of the “love-hate” relationship the voters have with PAP. Most voted PAP for multiple reasons but least about “strongly supporting” it. They may even dislike PAP but due to the threat of their surrounding turning into “slump” is made, they will vote PAP. On the other hand, some may just vote according to their emotional frustration rather than rational choice.

Both type of voting are undesirable as it seems that nobody in these categories vote according to what they think is best for Singapore. Individual’s immediate well being supercede Nation’s well being or even the macro bread and butter issues.

This is even so during the Presidential Election basically because to these protest voters, since the “safe guards” and committee has “ensured” that the candidates are trustworthy, there is practically no difference on who become the President. I would say, there isn’t even need for such election at all. And voting for the non-PAP endorsed candidate wouldn’t have got them into “trouble” of not having HDB upgrading and such, they would be more willing to use the opportunity to cast “Protest Vote”.

Voting should start from an altruistic perspective. It is not just about your emotional or materialistic needs but rather, the whole Nation’s needs. PAP understands how protest voters’ minds work from an individualistic perspective and thus, the use of materialistic threat is used to counteract their behavior. “Social responsibility” cannot be cultivated by such means. Such tactic could only aggravate and strengthen such individualistic behavior and mindsets. It is a strong poison that deters social progressiveness towards a more socially responsible and altruistic society.

More has to be done for political education, instead of using the crude and primitive way of enticing votes. Those stringent “safe guards” for Presidential election should be scrapped as it encourages irresponsible voting. Citizens must learn about the responsibility befallen them when they cast their votes. It is not about their own flats’ upgrading, not about their emotion needs of venting their frustrations, but it is all about the needs of this Nation.

Goh Meng Seng


Jayce said...

I'm 24 this year and i have yet get the chance to vote as my estate had a walkover during the last election.

The voting culture in Singapore is weak. We have a high voting rate coz it's complusory, not coz the people really want a say in the political scene. In a way, i feel that we should have to freedom to choose to vote or not.

Even when we have a chance to vote, it is skewed as we as voters do not get the full picture most of the time. We have sterotypes of the opposition casted into our minds through years of tv-brainwashing. and sadly, there are some opposition who does antics that strengthens this sterotype.

Without adequate information, we are unable to make informed choice and thus at many times, choose the majority choice and that is PAP.

I agree that we need to have proper political education in singapore. We need to let our youths know that they can speak out and their views will be heard. it may be too late to change the mindset for our fathers and even peers, but there is still hope for our children.

Goh Meng Seng said...

Dear Jayce,

You are fortunate as you still have a long way to go to try and get a chance to vote.

There are people whom I know that don't get to vote at all in their 30s or even 40s.

Ironically, voting has become a "privilege" instead of "compulsory" to many and this "privilege" could only come when opposition contests in their wards.

There will only be hope for our children if we act to change the political landscape. But alas, many Singaporeans prefer to hide in anonymity behind that computer keyboard instead of jumping into the mud to get the work done.

Goh Meng Seng

Jayce said...

That is true.. we are all paper warriors, all talk and no action. But guess over the years, politics and the opposition have become stigmatized. The fear of going up against PAP is very real.

But look on the bright side, at least we're voicing out our opinions, even though it's hidden behind the keyboard. It's a small step but still a step forward.

Actually I am a PAP supporter, you have to admit they did a good job for the past few decades. But I jus feel that a different voice needs to be heard. and I dun like the way they try to stifle competition via various means like GRC policy and lawsuits.

They should allow free competition and prove to us Singaporeans that they have what it takes to run the country. If not, they should step down and let a more able party do the job.

btw, can i add a link to ur site in my blog?

Goh Meng Seng said...

Dear jayce,

Of course you could add a link to my site.:)

Yes, it is true that PAP, no matter what, has done certain good to our people in the past despite of the high handed management of the political landscape. But nobody could guarantee that such good management could continue without a good check and balance on the enormous power they have in hand.

History has taught us that strong man politics may be essential during the initial nation building period. But if the nation and society wants to progress, a good system of political management (of sufficient checks and balances) must be in place else the only way is the slippery road towards decay and destruction.

This is what my ideal and site is all about, an alternative to play the part of checks and balances.

Goh Meng Seng said...

To my mind one and all must go through this.