This is a landmark year for democracy in Singapore.
Many Singaporeans who have never voted in their lives got to vote twice this year. Until a few years ago, the word 'apathetic' was often used to describe Singaporeans - they didn't care much about politics, nobody thought much about govt policies and many didn't know or care about problems faced by their fellow Singaporeans. Things have changed quickly in the past 2 years . There is rising political vibracy, greater interest in govt policies and concern for the future of this country. The transformation has not been disruptive as other countries but sufficiently effective to start the process of change in this country.
The Internet has been instrumental in this change and has forced the mainstream media to become more objective in its reporting to stay relevent. The PE saw extensive coverage of each candidates and the MSM reported their views and agenda in a manner not seen in other elections. No more one sided reporting that would have driven readers to seek the truth on the Internet. The Internet also allowed candidates to directly address voters and brought the campaigning messages into every home so that every voter can informed decision. Elected leaders today have to reach out and connect with their constituents using Facebook, Blogs and YouTube. I believe in the coming years this need to reach out to voters will actaally influence the policy making process and will shape the future of this country in the coming years.
There is this constant fear among some Singaporeans that as we move away from the authoritarian style of govt, oir leaders will begin to steer this country towards populist policies harmful to the long term servival and growth of Singapore. Actually if you look at PAP policies many of the more unpopular ones were the cause of long term problems for the country - "the stop st 2" policy, FT policies, housing policies etc. There are very few policies, perhaps no policy, that achieve long term good that cannot be explained with clarity to people to earn their majority support. At the end of the day, it is the people with the right value system and ethics that will secure a good future for the country - no amount of leadership can force people to walk the path of success if they inherently don't have what it takes. The great divide between the leadership and the people has to be closed by aligning the interests of the leadership with those of people. The more informed ..the more interested the people are the greater the opportunity for the leadership to set and realise long term goals that will change this country for the better. We cannot muddle along without a clear vision of the future.
Whoever become our president has gone through the process of winning votes and getting the support of the electorate. The person who wins this PE cannot perform a Nathan-style presidency but has to continue to connect with the people when he is in office.
Where the votes go in the presidential election will tell us a lot about the ground. Many expect Tony Tan to win because he is a well known figure still respected by many of the older voters who are also typically PAP supporters. If anyone else wins, it will be a surprise and surprises will tell us a lot more about how the ground has shifted and how wide the divide between the PAP and the people is. There is no estate upgrading carrot in the PE and many view the president as someone needed to check on the PAP.....and how far the votes swing against the PAP-endorsed candidate is a meaure of how much trust is lost. I don't think we will get a big surprise ....but you never know until the votes are counted.