Thursday, February 18, 2010

Who will the new citizens of Singapore vote for?

I shared the Temasek Review article, 'Electoral rolls updated again to include more new citizens in the register', and noted an interesting comment from a friend: "oh, so they do not need to serve the national service BUT they are eligible to vote?".

His comment raises many important questions, particularly alarming to Singaporeans who want democratic change in this country.

33% of the electorate in contested areas voted for the opposition in the last election. How many citizens, especially civil servants, voted for the PAP out of fear? What would the percentage of opposition votes be if every Singaporean got a chance to cast his or her ballot? (The GRC system effectively makes it difficult for the opposition to contest in many parts of Singapore)

Voters would also benefit from mainstream media coverage that is independent and free from government control, because it would help them make a more informed choice.

There are several other reasons as to why the elections have been unfree and unfair all these years. But before we even begin to address the need for electoral reform, new citizens who've spent barely a year or 2 in Singapore are going to vote as well.

And who will the new citizens of Singapore vote for? Your guess is as good as mine. But we can still hope that over time, they too will see the reality of the Singapore situation and act for democratic change.

Also read:
Should there be a waiting period before new citizens are allowed to vote?
The truth about elections in Singapore


Anonymous said...

We are so screwed...

nofearSingapore said...

Hi Seelan,
I think the question is rhetorical. I also think you and I know the answer. New citizens will vote for the PAP. The main reasons they sign up for the pink id is that they like what they see here compared to Jiangsu or Quezon City or Mumbai.

Furthermore, they may have relatives who are pending conversion to PR or citizenship and rumour mills (propagated by many online and offline) tell them that their votes are only "theoretically" secret. ( I believe - hand on heart, that the vote is secret but you tell them).

It is a battle for hearts and souls and I know who has a head start. So what has the alternative parties gonna do about it? Do nothing and you get nothing.
Dr Huang

Seelan Palay said...

Hi Dr Huang, I have reasons to believe that the vote is not secret and I'll try getting more solid evidence to show why.

You are right that the PAP has a head start in the battle for hearts and minds but they also have 2 other things that the other parties sorely lack: funding and media coverage.

Now, media coverage can be balanced if the alternative parties could publish and distribute their papers in larger amounts and more often, but again that is limited by the amount of funds they have.

Needless to say, most well-to-do Singaporeans would fear or not be interested in donating large amounts to them as well.

nofearSingapore said...

Hi Seelan,
Thanks for your very prompt reply.
Unless you have absolute proof, I think it is extremely detrimental to instil doubt about the secrecy of the vote.
I know SM Goh mentioned that "they" know which precinct voted strongly ( or weakly) for PAP and hence upgrading privileges will go to the ones with greater "support". Stupid thing to say by a senior govt minister but this is different from saying vote is not secret. It is "agar-agar" only right?
Furhtermore Political parties reps are present when the boxes are sealed.( I think they initial on the seals etc)
Sealed boxes transported to secure location.
After specified period, boxes destroyed with the seals still intact.
How do you think this system can be better safe-guarded to prevent vote-rigging? ( Not that I think there is vote-rigging).

Anonymous said...

As far as politics is concerned, perception is reality.

If there is an overwhelming number of people who believe the vote is not secret, then the elections department should be conducting an investigation. Discover the sources of this perception and eliminate them, whether they be real or perceived.

Build voter trust and confidence through a open and robust process. Assurances and say-sos are not good enough. We can start by removing the numbering on the ballot paper.

- Kai Xiong

Anonymous said...

People who don't serve NS for any reason (i.e. Females, PR, etc) should pay higher tax and redistribute it to those who have sacrificed their youth and thereafter to the security of everyone.

Anonymous said...

If I were PAP, I would thank people like you who instills fears that voting is not secret. It is to my advantage. If your so called evidence ended up to be an illusion, you are dead meat.

Seelan Palay said...

Hi last anonymous, if the vote was not secret, why should we lie to people that it is?

Even if the government doesn't act on certain people voting for the opposition, the very fact that the IC numbers are printed on the ballots and the names and IC numbers of voters are shouted at polling centres as they step up to vote can scare, and has scared, many Singaporeans from making their choices.

Already people who can verify their claims are so scared to come forward and publicly testify.

Anyway, what does it matter to you if I'm dead meat? Even if you kept hammering at the people that the vote is secret, do you think that they'd believe when they know the government has shut down every single independent newspaper, tortured and detained political figures for decades without trial, and sues and jails other political figures?

Try showing the people that the system is becoming democratic, then maybe they'd find less fear in voting for the opposition. However with new laws like the Public Order Act that are more totalitarian than ever, good luck with convincing people, especially civil servants, otherwise.

nofearSingapore said...

Hi Seelan,
I must say that I agree with the previous anonymous that the PAP would love it if the opposition keeps harping about the “unsecrecy” of the vote.
If I were the opposition, I would not mention about this as it instills irrational fear. This fear is negative for the opposition.
Furthermore, how does an election official reading out a name and NRIC instill fear? Isn’t voting compulsory and won’t everyone’s name get read and announced in all polling stations? It is not as if the official reads out ,” Mr. ABC, NRIC XYZ, vote for SDP ( or whatever)”
In Zimbabwe and Afghanistan, the Zanu-PF and the Taliban maims and kills anyone who has the indelible marks on their thumbs – yet hundreds of thousands (or millions) risk their lives to make their voices heard. How “ball-less” are Singaporeans if we dare not vote for whomever we want at the booth? We should be saying,” I don’t care even if it is true that the vote is not secret ( NB .I am not saying that the vote is not secret), I want my voice to be heard!
Until we have more backbone, the people are to be largely blamed for cowardice, lack of convictions. No matter how hard the opposition works ( and you can see how hard they work- with nothing to gain personally), the people do not deserve a functioning democracy if they are afraid of their own shadows.

Seelan Palay said...

Hi Dr Huang, the reading out of a name and NRIC instills fear in Singaporeans because they put everything in context. Of course I know that if they really wanted to vote against the PAP they should do so despite anything, unfortunately the reality is otherwise.

When we look at Zimbabwe or any other African nation, it must be taken into consideration that the 'spirit of resistance' is not as a unfamiliar concept to Africans as it is to Singaporeans.

Furthermore, the people of Zimbabwe would even risk their lives voting against Mugabe, because for most of them their lives are all they have left. Singaporeans, however, tell us that they have a lot more to lose.

I will not blame the average Singaporean for harbouring such fears, justified or not. This is because unlike you and I who take an active interest to read into the workings of politics and democracy, they do not go out of their way to find out as much.

It's not that they don't care despite knowing. It's that sometimes they don't know enough to care.

They hear an opposition candidate speak to them once in 5 years in a rally, and by the time the candidate makes his rounds in the constituency in the period in between, each voter would have only met him/her once or twice.

And how many times are the newsletters of the opposition published in a year? Compare the articles they receive maybe once a year to the news and propaganda they are fed by the government controlled media day in and day out.

Even friends of mine who are strong critics of the PAP find themselves doubting themselves when they read the kinds of things that the mainstream media publishes.

Most of the people I'm referring to are other than the supposed 30-odd percent that will definitely vote for the opposition. They are part of the 20% fence sitters who need more information and confidence/familiarity with the opposition before they make their decision to cause a tipping point. The group also consists of Singaporeans who are fearful of voting for the opposition.

There must first be a stable free market of ideas before the tipping point is reached. The Internet clearly proves to be inadequate in its reach as of now because even socio-politically opinionated and internet-saavy acquaintances of mine don't even know that a website like The Online Citizen exists.

nofearSingapore said...

Hi Seelan,
You are most kind and lenient to Singaporeans!
How hard is it to get information?
In China, Facebook and Youtube are banned!
In Sg, one can read everything including some of the most slanderous stuff about anyone on the net ( and I disagree with some of these very personal and vicious attacks)- yet Singaporeans are still blaming lack of information!
How lazy can they be? Even if you give to them verified info on a platter- they will give some other excuses not to vote. Will it be upgrading or one's job prospects or child's scholarship next?
You have shown by example by active and passive resistance but do you get the respect you deserve?
Until Singaporeans begin to think for themselves that material needs are actually very overstated, will there be the spark for change.
Cheers and have good weekend!

Seelan Palay said...

Hi Dr Huang, I'm sorry if our exchange is taking up time. But I am genuinely interested in your views as I'm a reader of your blog as well. And beyond that I know you have a good heart and intent.

I cannot begin to tell the people around me that they are cowards or lazy for not finding out enough or not voting for the opposition. Saying that will immediately turn these people off from what else I have to say to back and reason my claims.

Over time, I have found that my methodology has worked to a fair extent, as I've managed to convince quite a number of people in my social circles that they should cast their votes for the opposition.

I wish that my friends and I could give more public speeches to communicate directly with the people, but unfortunately as I've mentioned, Singapore severely lacks a free market of ideas when its comes to socio-political issues.

nofearSingapore said...

Hi Seelan,
I suppose your method makes sense as well.
But you and I ( to a limited extent) have already shown that we are still alive and kicking even if we do not agree with some aspects of the govt.
Yes, I blame the govt for making Sgporeans sheep through process of depoliticalisation ( school/uni/NS) and now all are so subservient and always looking to govt for all solutions!
We lack initiatives and take even less risks!
I should take so much of your time. You must have better things to do at 1am in the morning!

Anonymous said...

Yes. My friends are civil servants. Out of fear, they voted for ruling party.