My dear newly elected PAP government, my ballot number is #1147, I voted in Tampines GRC, and I’m among the 30% nation-wide that didn’t vote for you yesterday. I wanted to save you the trouble of tracking me down and figuring out whether to “relocate” me for the next election – I do hope not, the school-turned-voting-station was terribly convenient for me to get to. In 2011, I was among the 40% that didn’t vote for you too. That time was much easier, I had Mah Bow Tan, the Housing Minister that stopped building housing.
It was a bit more difficult for me this time. By and large, the chaps you fielded in Tampines seemed to be an ok bunch, although I must admit that other than Heng Swee Keat, I can’t claim to know very much what the rest were doing the past four years. Now, they were up against a bunch of NSP guys that I had heard even less of. I imagine my contemplation at the ballot box yesterday was replicated many thousand times all over the island.
I considered that you did a good job for the country for the last 50 years, uninterrupted by any other party, helmed by a remarkable leader whom we mourned for. And in the interim four years since your worst election result, you fixed a list of grievances. In the meanwhile, the Opposition kept shooting themselves in the foot (although you did give them a loaded gun). And our capable PM is no novice too when it comes to political timing. My surprise is not the landslide, my surprise is you didn’t get more of us 30%.
For the reasons above, I can totally understand why 7 out of 10 of my friends voted for you. Funny thing is, many of those 7 don’t understand why there are 3 of us who would actually not vote for you. Are we unappreciative of what the PAP has done? Are we gambling with our country’s future by not voting in the best candidate/s? Are we seduced by the populist Opposition proposals? Or maybe we are a lost cause, simply hard-core anti-establishment. My friends scratch their heads, and probably would like to beat some sense into mine. That imaginary blanket-party got me thinking, hey, actually maybe you don’t know what’s in that 30% of heads too.
Start with the basic premise that us 30% are rational, and we too voted for what we thought was the best for our country. And what we thought was best, is not more PAP. We are not comfortable with the dominance of one party everywhere we look. You are democratically elected, and rightly control the government. But you can change the Constitution overnight (you did it before).
You hold sway over many civil institutions, from town councils to grassroots. Our central banker is the Finance Minister. The Manpower Minister heads the labor unions. The state-controlled media is, well, state-controlled. And we see former generals one after another march in to join your ranks.
We the 30% worry what happens one day if you got it wrong. No one person, no one party is infallible. We are so dependent on one that we don’t have any systems to safeguard what we have built in the past 50 years.
And you keep telling us we don’t have to. Trust us, you say. We are our own checks, you say. Yes, the 30% may trust you, but we have cops and auditors in this world, for good reason.
Back at my ballot box. My choice is between your team of known qualities (the good and the not-so good taken altogether), or a team of unknown qualities. The voters in some of the other GRCs have even starkier choices, controversial opposition candidates versus unpopular ruling incumbents. How did it come to this, that our choice is between the bad and the worse, and not between the good and the better?
I chose the unknown team. And I hate you for making me do that. But I have to. I’d rather have a normal honest person for you to debate things over in Parliament when I’m short on volunteers, than a brilliant honest person who agrees with everything you say. I’d rather recruit an average honest cop when I’m short on policemen, than have no cops at all.
If you start reining in your own dominance, then us 30% can actually start voting for the best candidate/s. How to start? You know how. It’s only whether you want to curb yourself, or not.
You only ask me to vote once every five years, but I think about you every day. We don’t stop talking about our future because the election is over. Think of us 30% when you think about my country, because we are thinking about it too.