The 7th of May has come and gone. Many of us were harping on the message of change. For some, it was as grandiose as a defeat of the PAP and the formation of a coalition government. For others, it was about denying the PAP a 2/3 majority. But, I believe, for most it was about making a breakthrough in a GRC.
In the heat of the campaigning, it was becoming increasingly clear from all the noise-making on social media platforms such as Facebook and from all the conversations that we were having with friends and relatives that something was happening. There was a shift against the PAP. A wave of anger. This was made worse by the almost arrogant insistence by Ministers that there would be no policy shifts and the veiled and direct threats that were made to the electorate generally and to voters in Aljunied in particular.
For a while, some of us sensed that Holland-Bukit Timah might fall to SDP in addition to a victory for the Workers’ Party in Aljunied. As more and more of us raised our voice in whatever way possible, we became more and more hopeful that something exceptional was going to happen on 7th May 2011. My own rational wish on cooling off day was that WP must take Aljunied and the votes must swing against the PAP to bring their majority to 60%. On polling day, both wishes came true. But, I felt a little empty because of so many close fights and of course the hyped up expectation of a totally surprising result. The surprise didn’t materialize.
With the heat of the election battle cooling off, and after rationally analyzing the opposition performance, I must say that there has been a significant change in this election. This is the highest number of opposition MPs in post-independence Singapore. This is the lowest percentage of popular votes garnered by the PAP.
More significantly, more than 800,000 Singaporeans voted for the opposition. During the campaign period, fear was rapidly disappearing from the minds of Singaporeans. We were saying stuff on our blogs. We were tweeting bold messages. Our Facebook updates were becoming ever more daring. We were publicly discussing politics with our friends, colleagues and relatives. We were not shy or fearful of discussing the topic in public places. Fear: a powerful tool in the hands of the PAP was now disappearing from our minds. I know of friends who had voted for the PAP previously out of fear or had spoilt their votes previously for that reason, who had decided in this election to cast away that fear. (Reality check – I also know of some who did not manage to do it and at the last minute succumbed to the fear of some backlash)
Of all the things that we can say about GE 2011 (be it the quality of opposition candidates, the disciplined messaging of WP and SDP, the off-message statements of PAP candidates, the sideshow involving Tin Pei Ling and Nicole Seah, the unprecedented apologies of Ministers, the swelling crowds at opposition rallies, the unrestricted usage of new media and the shameless lies of the New Paper), the one undeniable thing that has stood out for me is the lifting of the fear factor from the minds of so many Singaporeans.
Change has come.
Now, we have more work to do.