GE20Watch: A Final Reflection

Now let's all cool off...

Hello and welcome to the LAST edition of GE20Watch before Polling Day!

As tomorrow is Cooling-Off Day, we will not be publishing. We will have one more post on Saturday to summarise the election results.

If this is somehow the first post you’re reading from GE20Watch, it’s not too late to get informed! Here are some resources:

And of course, do check out past issues of this newsletter for our own coverage!

But we understand everyone must surely be tired after a bruising election campaigning period, and the sheer influx of news on a daily basis. As such, this last issue is in the form of a reflection from myself, the eponymous GE Watcher:

The origins of this newsletter

I started GE20Watch way back in February to summarise political news for people who were not as politically savvy or did not have time to keep up with the news, as the election seemed to be imminent. I used to post regularly on social media about politics, and many friends seemed to appreciate what I did, so I wanted to reach out to a wider audience.

I am anonymous for a good reason: being politically engaged in Singapore comes with its own attendant risks. I have had friends who have been blacklisted from employment opportunities simply for advocating for issues as benign as climate change or for offering alternative views to the ruling party. They do not wish Singapore harm—they love the country and want to see it progress, albeit with an alternative vision. They are not traitors, they are ‘loving critics’, as Prof Tommy Koh would put it.

As such, I hope that readers can accept my anonymity. It is not to escape accountability - it is self-preservation out of an abundance of caution.

Nevertheless, I have strived to be politically non-partisan. Although I may have my own political leanings, I believe that voters should make their own informed choices, and to do so, they need the best impartial information. It should not be my role to tell you who to vote for; leave that to the parties.

But I will admit this has become increasingly hard to do throughout this election. The hardball tactics of the ruling party, while not wholly unexpected, put the opposition at a significant disadvantage. As such, while I have covered all sides, I have dedicated more time and space to opposition rebuttals in order to ‘level the playing field’. This, of course, requires a certain level of personal judgment as to what is ‘level’ enough, and if you feel that I have been too biased as a result and betrayed the neutrality that you expect, I apologise for that, but I will stand by my editorial choices.

On the election

To be very honest, this election held a lot of promise, but has largely failed to deliver on discussing substantive issues. There are many long-term issues at stake for the next five years, such as Singapore’s post-Covid plans, the future of our economy, climate change, rising inequality, and how to create a more equitable society. To their credit, most parties have engaged superficially issues, but it was nowhere near sufficient.

Instead, the past few weeks have been characterised by gutter politics, from Tan Wu Meng’s accusations against Pritam Singh and police reports made against Raeesah Khan, which the PAP capitalised on. Meanwhile, with this being a social media election, the toxicity online has increased to new volumes, from ‘Ivangate’ to Critical Spectator.

To be clear, such politicking is present in every society and election. However, in an election period dominated by the spectre of a global pandemic, one would’ve thought this election would be a cleaner one. Alas, this was not to be.

Of course, there have been some bright sparks. This election saw the rise of WP’s Jamus Lim as one to watch moving forward. The WP have conducted a clean campaign despite the best attempts to pull them down, while moves such as courting the votes of Pulau Ubin residents (who number just 38) will endear them to many young and progressive voters.

The PAP’s Tharman Shanmugaratnam has steered clear of his party’s tactics, focusing on economic analyses. SDP’s Chee Soon Juan showed shades of his fiery nature in a televised debate, but has run a largely clean campaign in Bukit Batok, while Dr Paul Tambyah has plugged along in Bukit Panjang despite being embroiled in a POFMA case. Dr Tan Cheng Bock has waged a clean campaign while reaching out to younger voters (his weakest demographic) by being a Woke Hypebeast.

And on the grassroots side, I’ve seen friends who put in the hard work on the ground convincing voters, others who create voter resources online, and those who form community groups to create safe spaces for discussion. These have been heartening to see, and I think political awareness in our society is at an all-time high. This bodes well for the future.

On voting

Some undecided voters have approached me for help on voting logic. There’s a few parts to this.

Firstly, vote for the parties you believe in. It’s fashionable to dislike the PAP, but if you truly believe in their long-term vision and feel they are the best party to bring Singapore forward, by all means, you should cast a vote for them. Conversely, if you believe in the WP’s plans and their method of politics, cast a vote for them. Heck, if you somehow adhere to Lim Tean’s Trumpian vision, I would disagree with you, but it is your democratic right to vote for him.

Now, if you’re a voter who does not want to vote for the PAP and want checks and balances in Parliament, but feel that the opposition in your constituency is not very credible, this gets a bit tricky.

First things first, fears of a ‘freak election’, despite the PAP’s best intentions to portray this as one, are unfounded. The PAP need a supermajority (67% or 62/93) of seats in Parliament to amend the Constitution (e.g. installing a Reserved Presidency). I am willing to predict conclusively that on 10 July, they will achieve this supermajority. Even if, as DPM Heng pointed out, the PAP lost 4 GRCs (East Coast, Marine Parade, Sengkang, and Holland-Bukit Timah) and 2 SMCs (Bukit Batok, Bukit Panjang), this would give WP and SDP 26 seats in total (coupled with Aljunied and Hougang), and the PAP 67 seats. It is quite unlikely any other GRCs or SMCs are in danger (and this is an optimistic scenario).

(Edit: the email version of this newsletter missed out Aljunied GRC and Hougang SMC! Sorry WP!)

Hence, you can cast a ‘protest vote’ against the PAP in other constituencies even if you do not like the opposition in those wards, as the PAP is rather safe in them. This increases the vote share of the other opposition parties and would help you send a message to the ruling party that you cannot condone their politics. You can also spoil your vote, although this is not optimal, as your spoilt vote does not count in the overall vote share. It decreases the percentage of the PAP, but not as much as if you had cast a vote for the opposition.

However, if you don’t want the opposition party in your ward being emboldened by a larger-than-expected vote share, and you do not want their brand of politics in Singapore, then spoiling your vote would be your best option. Just make sure you’ve thought it through!

Final thoughts

As a young voter myself, I count myself fortunate to have the time and privilege to embark on this project and really scrutinise all parties during this election. It has given me a clearer view of the issues at hand, and helped me to make a more informed decision.

I hope that this newsletter, in turn, has been educational and helped you make a more informed decision. Democracy requires an educated and active citizenry, as Socrates himself would tell you. Our society will only be as strong as its weakest link.

There will be many of you disappointed with the result late Friday night, just as I was in 2015 (giving away my political leanings here!). The online sphere may make it look like the opposition will triumph, but social media is an echo chamber, and it is highly likely the PAP will win big yet again. We need to remember this is a democratic process (as imperfect as it is), and we must respect the choice of the people. If you really feel strongly and want to make a difference, consider volunteering for a party and doing grassroots work on the ground.

It could just be my echo chamber, but I’ve seen friends and others grow more politically engaged throughout this election period. People have also shared this newsletter and said how they find it really useful. This, to quote a certain candidate, ‘warms the cockles of my heart’. This election has taken a lot out of me, but I would do it all again if I could.

Take tomorrow to reflect and read up on the choices available, discuss them with friends and family if you can, and make your vote count on Friday.

See you after the election.

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