For the most part of earlier this year, we were all on a “will there be an election or will there not be an election” speculation.
Once it was made clear that there would indeed be a general election, the second leg of the speculation of whether or not electoral boundaries would be amended abounded.
Now that the electoral boundaries review committee (EBRC) has been convened,we are still speculating on whether or not the electoral boundaries will be amended and when these elections will actually be held!
Now, it may sound like a little bit of a guessing game but in truth, all this murkiness and speculation highlights a very serious question. Why should an election be mired in such mystery?
An election is the hallmark of a modern developed democracy, an image that the powers be in Singapore are keen to cultivate and defend.
Why then is the calling of an election open to so much speculation?
Surely, those in charge must know that the greater the opaqueness, the greater there is room for conspiracies (something that is never helpful for cultivating public trust)?
Singapore prides itself on its efficiency. Why then is it so difficult to just organise an election?
With all these factors in play, can the public be blamed for possibly thinking that the Peoples’ Action Party (PAP) are deliberately biding their time to see when would be the most optimal time for them to win?
Are rumours of unfair advantage and “wayang” so surprising in the wake of such uncertainty?
Under Singapore law, a General Election is to be called within three months of Parliament being dissolved by the President on the advice of the Prime Minister and the Prime Minister will decide when the EBRC is formed.
Given that I cannot actually recall a time when the President has not carried out the will of the Prime Minister, we can probably assume that the Prime Minister can decide when to call an election, at any point of time before the 5-year term of Parliament is up.
This means that it is potentially possible for them to canvass the ground according to how the boundaries will change – a benefit that opposition politicians will never have. If this is indeed the case, isn’t this not tantamount to a possible misuse of power on the part of the PAP to garner an unfair advantage?
Is this possibly an abuse of power to the severe detriment of opposition candidates? In this factual matrix, opposition politicians will always be battling the unknown.
The ruling party have the majority to decide how electoral boundaries are drawn up. What are the checks and balances available to prevent potential abuse? What about the timing issues and the PAP having sole control over when an election will be?
We have to ask ourselves why the Prime Minister has so much discretion in the calling of an election. An election is meant to give the people a chance to choose who they want to represent them.
However, if the ruling party is able to canvass the ground strategically based on “inside knowledge” that its competitors will not have, can the people be said to be given a genuine choice? In the commercial world, this would be a crime – it is called “insider trading”.
While I am not suggesting that there is any hard evidence of abuse of the election process on the part of the PAP, the fact remains that there are inadequate checks and balances against possible abuse.
Keep this in mind when casting your vote.