Why Hougang by-election is not a local election

~ By Jackson Tan ~

This article is a response to DPM Tharman’s statement that Hougang by-election is a ‘local election’ and it’s more about choosing an MP on a constituency level rather than national level.

I wish to highlight arguments that support my assertion as per article title.

Firstly, whether or not an election is local or national should be considered based on dimensions such as geographical area and boundary of political influence. I wish to put forward that, given the fact that Singapore is really a ‘small red dot,’ even by-elections on a constituency level can be viewed as a national election. This is because elections don’t come often (in fact, it’s once every five years or so), thus the chance to vote may indicate voters even consider national issues such as public transport, education and costs of living. In addition, the extent to which policies by the ruling party affects people cuts across all constituencies, be it GRCs or SMCs. The ongoing train breakdowns, for example, also affect Hougang residents, thus it is definite that they take it into consideration when voting. Perhaps the term ‘local election’ is more appropriate in bigger countries such as the US where states are governed differently.

Secondly, it is obvious and noticeable that grassroots adviser Desmond Choo, the PAP candidate running for the by-election, would not have been so successful in his ‘porridge programme’ if there weren’t other forces such as the government or ruling party. I would not have agreed the by-election is local since his programme is funded by taxpayers’ money which should be used on a national level.

Thirdly, a by-election occurs when an existing MP is no longer able to represent its constituency in Parliament, but this should not affect the nature of the voting process among voters. In relation to my first point, will anyone disagree with me that Hougang voters are not affected by national issues? As such, it is still necessary that residents will consider national issues and not just issues restricted to within Hougang SMC.

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