In this season of the general election, many from the ruling party are urging Singaporeans to vote wisely, for the government whom they truly believe can bring Singapore forward. And they would not be doing this if not for the great numbers of Singaporeans who are aware of the party’s capabilities yet choose to vote against them for the sake of having an alternative voice in the Parliament. Such is deemed an unwise choice, because by doing so Singaporeans are jeopardising the resources of the government. By voting against them for the sake of voting against them, Singaporeans are putting in the Parliament ministers who take up the place that could have been filled by other leaders deemed more capable.
But wait a minute – who’s to say what’s wise and what’s not? This may seem like common sense, but it is exactly when we think it is common sense that we should realise that it is actually not as inherently right as what we would like to think.
This group of Singaporeans who vote for Opposition for the sake of having an alternative voice in the Parliament may seem to be voting blindly. But voting is also making a stand about the present government, beyond the more common principle of voting for the party you find most capable. And this group of voters are making a valid stand. They are aware which party is most capable, but they are also choosing to vote in their one unified interest: Having significant numbers of Opposition members to keep the dominant party in check. Sure, this wastes resources because the seats could be given to other leaders who may be able to make greater contributions. But if there weren’t seats occupied by the Opposition, who’s to say the same resources will not be equally wasted by the dominant party as a result of complacency that comes with unchallenged power?
After all, if we have seen how the ruling party has improved over the recent years, we cannot quite ignore the possibility of this being in part due to the presence of opposition. That said, it does not mean we should all retract support for the dominant party and vote for opposition just so the former can improve. But let’s leave the people who believe in voting for opposition for the sake of an alternative voice to their voting principles, and not decide for them what’s wise or unwise.
Fundamentally, every Singaporean knows how competitive the society we grew up and live in is. There is not a phase we stopped competing, whether in school, at work, or even at home. Albeit not the best way to learn, we cannot deny that competition has made us better than before. If Singaporeans have improved as a result of competition stemming largely from the policies that the government has put in place, why should the government be excluded from such competition if they claim that we are one team?
If we have the right to vote, then we are entitled too to the right to believe how we should vote. Even if such beliefs are defined as ‘unwise’, this definition itself is also a belief which is fundamentally ideological and certainly constructed. But there will always remain the group of voters who insist on voting against the dominant party, and the other group that frowns upon such a decision. It is difficult to change such opposing beliefs from both camps of voters, but this difference in opinion is exactly what makes our population dynamic, and truly diverse. The political scene has certainly grown to be more vibrant today compared to that many years ago. Clearly, we are not a dull-minded people with an indifferent attitude toward our rights as citizens. When people are concerned about voting, they have evidently taken hold of their voting rights, on which their citizenship is the sole basis. And citizenship is what makes a nation a people.
So here’s what we have after 50 years of independence: A real nation.