It was a hot sweltering afternoon. The taxi driver asked if he could turn up the radio volume. It was Nomination Day, when the contesting parties announced their candidates and the constituencies in which they are going to contest in.
The taxi driver was merely using the request as a segue to what he really wanted to say: “Why didn’t XXX (a well-known opposition leader) contest in YYY estate? I’m sure he could take down WWW (one of the incumbents).”
That sparked off an expansion on a variety of issues, from housing, wages, to history and the older generation’s sacrifices for Singapore’s economic growth. If you live in Singapore, you would have heard about all these issues, and often. But hearing this from a total stranger (never met the taxi driver before), on a sunny hot afternoon, with the radio news on the latest election buzz in the background, it just seems surreal.
It’s the first time in Singapore’s history that so many constituency seats (82 out of 87) are being contested in a general election. Unlike previous elections when there were high walkover rates, a lot of my Singaporean friends will get the chance to exercise their vote in this general elections. I suppose even people who were once “on-the-fence” will now have to think and make a decision (unless they choose not to turn up to vote). Anyway, this post is no political analysis. There are tonnes of chatter in cyberspace, some more eloquent & well thought out than others. And I’m sure many of us are already inundated by the chatter around us [think: random taxi driver :D].
Rather, I just want to mention something extraordinary I discovered about Singaporeans that defies stereotype.
You see, I attended a rally yesterday just to hear what some of the candidates have to say. After all, they could potentially win and be in charge of the constituency in which I stay. The turnout was amazing, with the grandstand of the stadium almost full, and at the maximum turnout point, probably three quarters of the field filled with people. In the humid evening air, people were constantly streaming in past 9pm (the rally started at 7pm). As a friend commented, “This is even better than an S-League turnout!” At parts of some speeches, there were wild cheers, whistles, claps and roars of support. Who says Singaporeans are apathetic and dispassionate? Passion was pretty evident last night, occasional rhetoric & crowd-pleasing moments notwithstanding.
Also spotted in the crowd were some Caucasians who appeared to have been brought there by their Singaporean friends, & who looked like they were being given a concurrent commentary of what’s going on. Is this a “uniquely Singapore” experience or what!
Passionate exciting rallies aside, I’m deeply aware of how some of my friends regard this election and their votes with immense seriousness.
To my Singaporean friends, happy voting!