In light of GE 2015, discuss what you feel can be done to help young voters make informed decisions wisely.
1st Place - Nina Lim Yan Qing
The watershed election of GE2015 witnessed PAP sweeping 70% of the votes, an outcome that was astonishing even to PM Lee himself, particularly after GE2011. As the number of voters increases with each election, it is of paramount importance to ensure that we do not abuse the prosperity and harmony we now enjoy by voting candidates who do not possess the calibre into government. The faith and trust Singaporeans put in their leaders does not just influence Singapore for the next five years, but also beyond that timeframe. Across the globe, many countries look up to Singapore. Whether Singapore continues enjoy a pivotal status depends on how the elected government interacts with this globalised world. Whether Singapore can continue to enjoy her momentous status lies in the hands of the voters, the young voters, and our next generation. Whether Singapore still remains safe despite being a little red dot on the world map relies upon the decisions of her citizens. It is therefore important to make a wise decision in voting for a competent government to ensure that our later generations continue to enjoy the peace and progress we have at our disposal now. However, younger voters might have trouble determining which party can best further Singapore’s interests. To ensure that we make an informed decision, we need to educate them, through the rallies, through news as well as incorporating it as part of their education. The importance of making sound political decisions based on rationale and consideration instead of acting on rash feelings and pettiness cannot be emphasised enough.
The rallies could be a good platform for politicians to connect with the masses, such as young voters, who, though attending rallies might be a good way of getting to know the politicians better, should also refer to other sources of information to aid them in making a wise decision. However, in GE2015, we see the rally being used as a platform where politicians exchanged scathing remarks and caustic comments, saying how there should be more voices in the Parliament. For example, National Solidarity Party candidate for Macpherson Single Member Constituency Mr Cheo Chai Chen insinuated that People’s Action Party candidate Ms Tin Pei Ling’s new status as a mum is a weakness. This biased and ungrounded claim incited a flurry of dissent online, where netizens flocked to Ms Tin’s defence. Such jibes of personal nature are hardly constructive to Singapore’s future, and such interviews and rallies of candidates no longer provide any sound ground for young voters to make informed decisions. Accusations such as Ms Tin to focus more on her child than voters if she were to be elected, were not only proof-less but also seen as an attempt to tarnish her reputation. In other cases, some political parties had ‘plans’ such as giving the elderly $500 each, but with no concrete plan of how this grant is to be financed. With all talk and no plan, it is hard for voters to determine their competency, which could lead to voting the wrong people into the Office. The rallies alone are no longer the quintessential platform for young voters to tap on to gain knowledge of the political climate, though they are still useful in reaching out to voters. Hence, young voters should compare across rallies to decide which party’s political beliefs appeal the most to them and not just blatantly believe what they hear from a single rally, otherwise making ignorant judgements.
As the essence of what determines the direction of the votes are the proposed policies, The Straits Times should gear up and cater to this more effectively. Printed newspapers such as TODAY and The Straits Times have a ‘GE2015’ section, where they report the highlights of the rally held on the previous night, publish the profile of new candidates and their plans. This is a good platform for voters, especially young voters, to be aware of all the happenings as it is unfeasible for voters to be physically there at each and every rally. As youth become increasingly tech-savvy, the News media should continue to upload an online version to their website in addition to publishing a special print edition of the elections. Not only is it more convenient for young voters who rely very much on their smartphones, it also saves them the trouble for having to carry a newspaper around. Young voters can also activate a setting in their smartphones such that they will receive live updates of the rallies, and various events as it happens. Supplementary to the online news, the News media could include an interactive page that allows netizens to gain a better understanding of the ongoing campaigns. Currently, The Straits Times online has an interactive page for the results to GE2015. Perhaps, The Straits Times online could also create such an interactive page for updates during the campaigning period, which could include the profiles of politicians, ’101 Things you should know about GE2015’ along with some of the campaign stories. This could be publicised through YouTube advertisements since many YouTubers today are youngsters who might be voters and even voters-to-be. It is also a good idea to dedicate a channel on YouTube to the elections, where live streaming of rallies, television debate broadcasts, press conferences and even interviews could be uploaded. This way, young voters can evaluate the information they acquired to make a sound decision on who they trust is better in bringing progress to Singapore.
Many young voters are new and inexperienced about how the government and society function together in forging prosperity for Singapore. Therefore, they should ideally acquire some measure of political acumen before they vote, to ensure they make informed decisions. They could be exposed to politics, and be better prepared while they are still at school. While it is preferred that Politics be taught as a subject in school since young, this might be seen as propaganda by subversive factions which might potentially cause disharmony amongst society and with our neighbouring countries. Additionally, before entering tertiary education, they are too young to appreciate the relevance between politics and their daily lives. Therefore, Politics could be introduced as a compulsory module in all tertiary education institutions, such as Universities, Polytechnics as well as Institute of Technical Education (ITEs). As they are already in the tertiary education stage of their lives, they are more mature now, to see the situation rationally and impartially. Through the course, they will be tasked to discuss and evaluate the various policies implemented and their views on how these policies will affect them. The course should prioritise fair and open evaluation on all existing policies, perhaps even bringing in expert opinion on them, in order to avoid being shamed as yet another tool of propaganda wielded by the government. Such policies of discussion might include the much debated Central Provident Fund, Baby Bonus Scheme and Foreign Talent Policy. Not only do they gain better understanding of the various policies through sharing sessions, they also see a clearer picture for themselves on what is it they really want the Government to act on, hence, deciding on who they think is more competent in delivering the job. As they perceive the tangible and concrete effects their vote might bring to Singapore, they will exercise more caution and consideration before casting their vote frivolously.
In conclusion, there is no right or wrong vote, only a vote that is ideally based above all on logic and rationale. It is crucial to inculcate in younger voters who might be politically inexperienced and hence gullible to appeals to emotion, the political acumen to separate emotional decisions from choices made objectively. Attempting to do so only during the campaigning period while emotions run high, or only during Cooling-off Day is neither sustainable nor feasible in the long run. Hence, to ensure that inexperienced young voters exercise maximum logic and objectivity when voting, such political awareness needs to be cultivated in their school days via my proposed measure of introducing Politics as an extra-curricular module. For the short term, young voters in particular should dissect the content being presented at rallies to ensure that their votes are cast in favour of concrete policies to better Singapore instead of acting on emotionally-fuelled tendencies. To expedite this process, both traditional and new media outlets can feature exclusive sections highlighting the propositions of the government and opposition parties so that young voters can reflect and meditate over them. Thus, I believe young voters can make logical and objective choices despite their prior inexperience.