Why this year’s GE presents the dilemma of choice
So the sultry dance of seduction began, under the sweltering heat, with supporters from all sides keen on being seen, heard and heeded.
But first, the news. And it lies in the tantalising complexity of Choice.
Not since 1963 have Singapore voters been presented with such an abundant, delectable dilemma of choice.
All 89 seats are being contested. Finally, what you say, what sways you, who moves you will be felt at every ballot box in every corner of Singapore.
And that is why we cheer. Oh, the boldness of the opposition, the optimism, the folly, that challenges the inexplicable equation of good sense!
Why do they do it?
Why risk ridicule?
Why dice with their $14,500 deposit?
For about four hours at Raffles Institution yesterday, people who seemed driven by passion - whether for the status quo or change - were observed through a personal prism of cynicism mellowed with age.
These are eyes which have seen first-hand the glacial evolution of elections over four decades, from fait accompli on nomination days to mere tweaks of fate on Polling Day.
Almost inevitably before every GE, a bogey word would be conjured: Watershed. It is a word bandied about so recklessly that it became robbed of impact and essence.
Until yesterday. Finally, the word appears to have found legitimacy, thanks to the gumption of the opposition.
These eyes began the day forced to make its first choice of the day: What to wear.
White? Think again. A pale shade of blue? Nope. Yellow?
Better settle for the camouflage of neutrality.
Colours have become the stripes of political tribes.
They have come to symbolise, not merely affiliation or differentiation, but also divisiveness and confrontation.
You have the Reds of the rural north in Thailand, and the Yellow of the Bangkok establishment. In Malaysia, the Yellow of protesters and the threatening Red of retaliation.
So, too, Singapore - with a twist worthy of praise.
PHOTOS: THE NEW PAPER
Our colours, by contrast, are like the colours of the rainbow: distinct yet undivided. It is rivalry without enmity.
The manicured pitch at RI yesterday was halved by colour - white on one side, complete with matching brollies, and a cacophony of colours on the other.
It was the same at other nomination centres.
To keep spirits up during the long pause between the filing of papers and the confirmation, the right sang "We are Singapore" while the left chanted "WP!"
For perhaps the first time, Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong shared the same confines of the nomination office as the Workers' Party leadership and his high-profile vocal critics, Mr M. Ravi and Mr Roy Ngerng.
But while significant, that was not the unexpected newsworthy moment.
The news point came courtesy of Dr Ng Eng Hen, the People's Action Party's organising secretary.
Rather than preaching to the converted on his right, he stepped forward and boldly turned his attention to the jeering supporters of the opposition.
Look around you, he told the PAP detractors, referring to the improvements at Bishan-Toa Payoh.
Never mind your jeering, he said, straining to be heard. "Year by year, we will improve your lives, even if you jeer against us, we will improve your lives.
"And the more you jeer, the more we will improve it even more. We will work to improve your lives, despite your jeers."
Magnanimity beyond "kinder and gentler"? An indication of equal treatment and distribution of PAP bounty, regardless of boundary?
Now that the choice is upon us, the obvious follow-up would be "who"? Who among the crowded field will be the privileged, chosen few who would be the natural aristocrats of Singapore?
At RI, on TV, and at all nomination centres, I have seen in the eyes of the candidates a hint of idealism and delusion, a glint of ambition and power, in unequal measure.
That, perhaps, is why they do it.
A guru I have long admired for his astute analysis surprised me with a phone call when he saw me on TV pounding the RI field.
His view of the outcome? A pragmatic, unexciting assessment: that of the status quo. Then, this disclaimer: barring any unforeseen developments (read: insensitive missteps).
I once read a warning in a pub on the dangers of alcohol loquacity. In the heat of hustings, in the urge to seduce the electorate and the likelihood of gaffes from arrogance, it is a line that candidates should consider: "Please," it read, "make sure that brain is engaged before operating mouth."
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