Post-GE 2011: A Watershed Election – For Good or For Worse?

~ By Jackson Tan ~

The 2011 General Election was viewed as a ‘watershed election’ (East Asia Forum, 2011) in which, for the first time in Singapore’s history, there was a strong Opposition presence. Many issues dominated the elections, some were very pressing, others not much of a concern yet. It was also remembered for the fact that the ruling party, the PAP, did not have majority in Parliament on Nomination Day. Before I discuss any changes made to Singapore in the aftermath of the election, it is my intention to firstly highlight the meaning of the general election.

In my opinion, the general election is the formal assessment of the government’s performance during its period of rule and the election results by voters form a conclusion. There are two important key points.

Firstly, the general election serves to assess the government’s performance, not the Opposition’s performance. Many times I have heard of people claiming that the PAP is ‘the best team for the job’ and that the Opposition is incapable of the task. I hope to inform them that even the PAP themselves started out as Opposition in the first place, so why the pro-PAP stance then? In addition, the PAP is the ultimate decision-maker since a very small Opposition presence in Parliament is an insufficient deterrence to passing of laws or amendments to existing ones. As a result, most of the responsibility for steering the country in the right direction lies with them, not the Opposition.

Secondly, the assessment is limited to the period between the previous election and the next, meaning that 2011 General Election should be based on the assessment of government performance for the period 2006-2011 and not inclusive of past periods because those have already been accounted for in previous elections. When the PAP constantly talked of ‘track records’ stretching as far back as to the 1960s when currently there is an increasing proportion of young voters, I wondered if they realize the time zone they’re in.

Describing it as a ‘watershed election’, one might think that major changes would be implemented after the election, perhaps for the good of Singaporeans. Ironically, it was observed that many outstanding issues not only remained outstanding, but even worsened to an extent that attracted much online uproar among Singaporeans. I highlight the following issues:

  1. Employment policy remained largely unchanged. Most, if not all, job sectors of the economy continue to rely heavily on foreign workers to achieve competitive cost structure, thereby displacing more Singaporeans.
  1. Transport system actually worsened. Prior to GE 2011, there were already many train breakdowns, though not serious enough to warrant much attention. However, the large-scale train breakdowns of Dec 2011 and subsequent hiccups in the following months clearly shows a strong deficiency in the proper management of the transport network.
  1. Foreign immigration continues to be ‘extravagant’ which is, in my opinion, increasing the foreigner population here to almost 40% within the next 5 years or so. In recent news, foreigners made much headlines when many road accidents and violent disputes involved foreigners. For example, a foreign lady slapping a granny in the train, PRC bus drivers killing pedestrians etc.

Of course there are many other issues not mentioned here but it is not my intention to list them all here.

Personally, 2011 General Election was indeed a ‘watershed election’ but for the worse. What do you think?

Headline photo courtesy of Community for a Clean Watershed


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