Good morning. It’s the day after. And the people have spoken. It was a good feverish turnout of 2.5m notwithstanding the pandemic - quite unprecedented actually.
So, PAP got their mandate, that is, 83 seats out of 93. WP won another GRC, taking them to 10 seats in Parliament from the previous 6. And PSP, registered only in March last year, was in 3rd place with 253,459 of the popular votes. WP was in 2nd place with 279,245. Mm...very close.
Indeed TCB had pulled his hefty weight and although PSP didn’t win, West Coast GRC nevertheless showed the best performance and is qualified for 2 NCMP seats (I can only hope TCB considers it. I mean, how rare is it to see the current PAP debate in Parliament with the former PAP).
Even the little “Red Dot United” formed less than a month ago garnered a respectable 25.38% of the popular votes against the Goliath of PAP‘s GRC, Tharman and his Jurong team. They may have missed with the 5 stones in hand, but they still made a political splash.
Mind you, Tharman got the best showing in GE2020 with 74.62%, not his first time ace-ing it. On the other hand, his outgoing boss in AMK recorded a count of 71.91% while his incoming boss in East Coast managed just to make the cut at 53.41%.
Alas, PAP may have come to the conclusion that the nation is not ready for a non-Chinese PM, but the people on the ground seems to differ going solely on the results.
In any event, overall, PAP’s performance could have been better. They were riding on the theme of this GE being a “crisis election”, compelling people to hide behind the cottails of the status quo. Not to forget that this is a GE where the government had given out nearly $100b, and one would have thought that it should have deepened the appeal, right? What’s more, this is PM Lee’s final GE run for he is passing the leadership baton to the charismatically-challenged HSK.
Perhaps this GE didn’t really match up to the last one (69.9% vs 61.24%) because GE2015 came right after a nation was in mourning while this GE came after a nation had masked up against a formidable global foe? In other words, one tugged on the people’s heartstring, while the other played on the people’s fear?
If this is so, it seems like when it comes to fear provoked by a crisis, the powers-that-be need to treat it with more caution and less presumption. For the people don’t want just safe, they want hope and change.
Let me just say that PAP’s manifesto for GE2020 was this: “Our Lives, Our Jobs, Our Future.” And PM Lee explained: “Therefore this manifesto also sets out the PAP’s longer-term plans to build a better Singapore, because our aim is not just to survive the storm but also to maintain the long-term direction for the country, and keep on building and improving Singapore.”
Honestly, the manifesto is all good for the PAP we know for so long. Over the past decades up to now, they have successfully steered and navigated Singapore in uncharted waters, through unexpected storms and even over this unprecedented global pandemic.
However, if the election results have alluded to anything, it is that the issue may go deeper than “Our lives, Our Jobs and Our Future.”
Maybe WP’s Chairman Ms Sylvia Lim’s last political broadcast can shed some light here. This is what she said: -
“Singaporeans are proud of our country’s tangible achievements. Even as an opposition party, we give credit to PAP’s founders for our physical infrastructure and efficient systems.”
“But what about the intangible aspects? Can positive changes happen in Singapore so that we embrace openness to other views, culture and creativity, transparency, kindness, fairness and happiness.”
She added: “Imagine a Singapore where the huge power imbalance that now exists with the Government dominating and controlling the people is changed - and power shifts back towards our citizens.”
Does she have a point? Is the GE result our nation’s Freudian slip inadvertently revealing something that is more than just improving our lives, protecting our jobs and securing our future?
The questions are: What life are we talking about when we have one of the highest inequality rates, when depression is prevalent among the young, and when hope is narrowly defined as what is readily tangible and material?
And what jobs are we talking about when the cost of living is rising, when most of our young are expected to spend almost all of their working life paying off debts just to find out that their property they had thought would tide them over in their old age is fast falling in value?
I know the intention cannot be faulted and it is to preserve jobs and work with employers to help the employees during this urgent and pressing time. But, what’s next after the vaccine is found? What’s next after we are inoculated against Covid?
Will we be going back to the pre-covid normal where business is as usual, where the rich gets richer with others lagging far behind, where economic growth is the nation’s first priority pursued at all costs, and where the poor and struggling in society remains largely invisible, that is, an inconvenient truth or reality?
And this brings me to our future. You can bet that a future under the firm hand of PAP is one that is rather secure, stable and resilient to a large extent. We have overcome much odds together to rise to international reknown and recognition.
But yet, there is still something amiss, not quite right. Alas, something is just not as plain sailing as the PAP has put it out to be.
Yes, they talk about the social mobility escalator for everyone to hop on, but you nevertheless wonder, looking at how uneven the distribution of the fruit of society’s labour, is there another out-of-sight, out-of-mind escalator reserved not for everyone, but for the somebodys of society who is just not the everybodys?
How about the bouncing trampoline? Our government assures us that they want to help us bounce to greater heights, be it in our education, our career or in our old age.
But again, you wonder, while intention and sincerity cannot be faulted, are the spring in the trampoline working as they should? How high can one go as compared to others who are born to privilege, wealth and exclusive personal estates? Are many jumping on the same trampoline adding greater stress to the spring while there is a trampoline elsewhere that has enough spring and space for a good, effortless jump one at a time?
Truly, what are the intangible that Sylvia is talking about? Between economic success and personal contentment, is our government more obsessed with the former?
Between growth and equality or inclusiveness, is our government still struggling to make the trade off because old habits die hard? And between control with strict OB markers and responsible freedom without fear, is our government still paranoid about making bolder adjustments, because it is still being held back by the ghosts of past hauntings?
Let me end with what Chan Chun Sing recently said. Addressing the opposition’s call for checks and balances in Parliament, he said: “Has the Government done well? If the Government has done well, should we affirm the Government or should we punish the Government by giving the (PAP) Government even fewer seats?”
“If the opposition has not done well, should we reward the opposition with more seats just on the slogan that they will provide more checks on the Government?”
I guess that is the issue with the government. They look at the tangibles, the measurables, and they have trouble seeing beyond that. Their shiny achievements in schools and in government/civil service clouded their sight.
No doubt the stats clearly shows the government has done well. But with a little more self-reflection, one ought to realise too that you are as good as the limitation of what your ruler measures. If it falls short a few cm, the length of your measurement would fall short too.
So, I guess CCS has got his answer this morning about whether the opposition has done well this GE2020. However you look at it, even amid the handouts and covid, the overall result is more positive for them than the ruling party. And as CCS puts it, they are thus rewarded with more seats in Parliament.
But he is however wrong about the seats being just a “slogan that they will provide more checks on the Government”. If anything, their reward for the people is to make sure the dominant party occasionally do some self-reflection for their own good. Cheerz.