Singaporeans awaken from political apathy

 

I once read on Twitter that the Singapore general elections is like waiting for a bus – you wait ages for one, and then two come along.

Symbols for the 4 candidates of the Presidential Elections 2011

The General Elections of 2011 will be remembered as a watershed election, where an alternative party won a Group Representative Constituency (GRC) for the first time ever, and support for the ruling People’s Action Party was at an all-time low. And then there’s the Presidential Elections of 2011, the first time Singaporeans have been able to vote for their Elected President in 18 years.

As I am writing, tweets are coming in hard and fast with rumours and updates on the results of the vote count for the Presidential Elections. It’s looking like a very close fight, and suddenly the “boring” election (as compared to the exhilarating General Elections) is turning into a nail-biting showdown. No one is quite sure whose portrait is going to be hanging on the walls of schools and government buildings, although it won’t be long before we find out.

But regardless of the outcome tonight, Singapore has already taken a big step forward. Having two elections in one year – and both more hotly contested than Singapore has ever seen – has given Singaporeans a completely new experience of politics and democracy.

For once, Singaporeans are being courted instead of being ordered, and not once, but twice this year. Politicians and candidates have to scramble to respond to our feedback and demands. If we are unhappy about certain actions, words or policies, we are able to make our displeasure known on all forms of social media, and watch those who used to talk down to us rush to remedy the situation.

Finally, politics in Singapore is starting to become more of a two-way thoroughfare as opposed to a one-way street with a bulldozer on it.

The sudden ability to affect the outcomes of our country’s future has awakened many Singaporeans from their political apathy. There is a noticeable increase in the number of people – especially from the younger generation – discussing local issues and politics, when they would not have bothered a year ago.

Social media and other online platforms are fast becoming the place to go to find out all you need to find background profiles on candidates, analyses from bloggers young and old, jokes and latest updates. Many would agree that this is not the same Singapore as before.

The fight is not over yet. Singapore is far from being an open society with democratic values, and there are aspects of our society (such in the areas of civil liberties and human rights) where we have much to catch up on. And as the world teeters on the brink of yet another economic meltdown, there are many who would say that the problems in Singapore are just going to get worse.

But if these two elections in 2011 have shown us anything, it is that Singaporeans are finally beginning to have a stake in their nation. And with this increased involvement, there will always be hope for a better future for all Singaporeans.