The following is a letter sent in by reader Lim NT.
To some, elections are about the future of Singapore. We play a part in giving the right people the mandate to lead us, to keep Singapore exceptional. Hence, we should vote for individuals who can take on important roles in the government.
Even if we were to accept this argument in its entirety, it does not mean that we have to vote for the PAP. Ministers are important, but so are those who provide alternative views in parliament, who force the ruling party to reexamine their assumptions, and who keep the government honest and accountable.
We might both agree that elections should be about the future, but we could arrive at different conclusions: I may vote for the PAP, you may vote for the opposition, or vice versa. It might eventually turn out that one of us has made the better decision, however, as of now, both conclusions seem equally sound.
To others, elections are about the present. While ministers play an important role in formulating policy, as MPs, they also play an important role in making sure that the needs of their residents are met. We want good ministers, but we also want good MPs who can relate to our current problems and attend to our needs.
There need not be a dichotomy between the two, and to give the PAP credit, they have many members who are both excellent ministers and excellent MPs. Yet, what if in this election there is a dichotomy? What if we feel that the opposition candidate can relate to our current problems more than a potential, or current, office holder? Do we have the right to put our current needs ahead of what we think is better for Singapore’s future?
I would like to suggest that we do. The fact that one citizen has one vote means that all our opinions are equal. Since we do not have regular referendums like the Swiss, and especially since we do not want to neglect the silent majority, our elections are the perhaps the best way we can get a glimpse of the dreams and aspirations of our fellow Singaporeans.
Responsible voting should be about asking ourselves how we want Singapore to be. Do we want a stronger PAP, or a strong opposition? Do we want someone who can attend to our current problems, or do we want someone who we think is better for Singapore’s future? Some choices may seem to be wiser than others, even without the benefit of seeing how things will eventually turn out. However, so far as voting is concerned, perhaps we should not worry about all this. As long as we express how we really think and feel, that’s good enough.
Some people might find the above a little disconcerting. Indeed, people might not know what they really want, and they might end up making decisions they will regret. However, perhaps that’s inevitable. In her article “By gum; the west is wrong about Singapore”, Joyce Hooi of the Business Times noted, what the people want, the people will eventually get – that is both the beauty and horror of a democracy.
But that is a matter for another discussion altogether.