'New normal' alive and well

Following the People's Action Party's landslide victory at the polls, some have posited that the "new normal" of the 2011 election has receded ("The end of the 'new normal'"; Sunday).

I beg to differ - the new normal is still alive and well. Rather than signify political regression, the recent election has shed new light on how Singapore is to be governed at this stage of its development.

On an objective basis, the opposition has lost little when it comes to parliamentary representation, retaining six seats in Parliament.

This is still a massive increase from the pre-2011 era. In those days, the best the opposition could hope for was one or two seats in the legislature.

The Workers' Party's continued control of Hougang SMC and Aljunied GRC seems to suggest that voters still want a similar level of opposition in Parliament, and not a return to the "old normal".

The new normal is not manifested in election results alone: There can be no doubt that the increased political and civil society space is one that is vastly different from the pre-2011 era.

Then, many voters were reticent about even voicing alternative political ideas, let alone getting involved in politics and civil society.

Today, civil discourse is stronger than it has ever been, and qualified individuals such as Mr Leon Perera, Dr Daniel Goh and Professor Paul Tambyah have been willing to contribute to political parties and put themselves forward for election.

It is unlikely that this new spirit of greater civic involvement would fade so easily, post-GE2015.

The new normal has barely had one election cycle to manifest its true electoral significance.

Parties on both sides have had to adapt to the new frontier of civic discourse - social media - as well as the increasing assertiveness of the electorate.

It will take several years before we can fully understand the nature of the new normal.

The elections of 2011 and 2015 are arguably not representative of what this new political environment will be like.

Rather, these elections should be seen as "experiments" through which all actors in the political sphere come to terms with the socio-political changes that Singapore has undergone at the turn of the decade.

Singaporeans are living in interesting times: The next few years will prove insightful in indicating the direction in which Singapore politics will develop in the future.

Ng Qi Siang

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on September 16, 2015, with the headline ''New normal' alive and well'. Print Edition | Subscribe