And so after having waited with abated breath, General Elections (GE)2006 finally kicked off yesterday.The ruling party had walkovers in 37 out of 84 constituencies. The PAP was denied, for the first time since 1988, its return to power on Nomination day Thursday, 27 April 2006.
The biggest puzzle to be unravelled in the coming nine days of electoral heat would certainly be - which wards would go whose way?
As part of its continuing GE 2006 editorial series, Think Centre (TC) examines the definitive factor that could swing or sink the Opposition - the issues.
Now with the spotlight off candidates and intense taunting-and-speculation on contests over, the focus now zeroed in on the electoral issues that would swing or sink the competition one way or another. In spite of all that TC editorials reported, discussed and analysed of the quality of candidates and role of the media, only electoral issues on the ground mattered.
As rightly pointed out by the ruling party and grudgingly acknowledged by the Opposition, bread and butter tangibles would far outweigh lofty desirables such as democracy and need for an Opposition. So do not expect to hear ideological debates on democracy, free and fair elections, human rights or even unemployment. Instead, expect municipal issues such as lifts for every floor, flats upgrading, more bus routes, refurbished wet markets or even footpaths to the main road.
Are Singaporeans such a shallow-thinking and short-sighted electorate? Or are Singaporeans genuinely materialist and consumerist beyond their innate political self? Or are Singaporeans truly a unique breed of apolitical economic citizens pre-ocuppied with the 5Cs (pun intended)?
In a socially-conditioned nation where economic needs of food, shelter and security were taught to matter more than political awareness, plurality and choice, Singaporeans apparently had their choices made on their behalf - by virtue of uninterrupted political rule and de-politicisation by the ruling party.
If you knew enough to compare the hotspot GE contests of the 80s and 90s, it was arguably discernible that the Opposition fought more on idelogical issues in the 80s while the 90s tended to veer more to localised issues.
Such as 1981 Anson by-election, 1984 GE and 1988 GE, the Opposition seemingly were gaining ascendancy with parliamentary break-throughs. The 1991 GE outcome was highest point of the Opposition to date - sources close to the ground recounted how the ruling party carelessly ceded the 4 wards through aloofness of the candidates and issues dis-connect with the ground. In 1997 and 2001, the GEs were fought and trumped by the ruling party through dangling of carrots such as wealth-sharing and estate-upgrading schemes.
So this 2006 GE, what would be the key issues? Do not think human rights education, just treatment of migrant labour, abolition of mandatory death penalty (now you know why TC would not irk the ruling party - even if we decided on an independent ticket). Unlikely to be greater inclusivity of every Singaporean, equal opportunities in employment, accomodation of diverse educational abilities, anti-terrorism efforts, integrated resorts decision or even the much-maligned NKF saga.
How about the rise of some isolated, deep-seated yet communal-based issues such as the much-publicised, high-profile temple issue in 2001? Or about the offers of asset-enhancement through door-to-door, floor-by-floor upgrading? Maybe more attractive healthcare subsidies to cushion the cost of rising medical costs? Perhaps even the fresh-faced, bi-cultural appeal of post-65ers candidates?
Well, if you were expecting this editorial to do some crystal-ball gazing, think again. The local media and the heartland coffee-shops would no doubt feed you all the grapevines and the odds in the 8 days ahead. Better still, attend the rallies, hear the alternative voices and enjoy the verbal fights. Your future would surely be vibrant, exciting and global with the return of this government. So would you give a chance to the Opposition?
The choice is yours, you vote what you reap.
(To avoid political campaigning, TC editorials take a break and return after the hustle and bustle, thrust-and-cut of GE 2006 to examine Singaporean's choice)
Sources and Relevant Links:
Bloomberg Singapore's Ruling, Opposition Parties Debate Political Freedom27 April 2006
Was political freedom the price we paid for economic success? With no human rights education are the people aware they are denied the fundamental human rights - which all human beings enjoy as birth rights?
Think Centre Editorial GE 200621 April 2006 In its continuing GE 2006 editorial series, Think Centre (TC) looks at another determinant that may boost or capitulate the Opposition's electoral chances - the media.
Think Centre General Elections (GE) 2006 15 April 2006 As part of its coverage of General Elections (GE) 2006, Think Centre moves into gear with week-by-week editorials on potential issues that matter to the Opposition