Forum: Election will be different, but no less significant

News of the upcoming general election has been welcomed. The pandemic has created urgency for us to re-examine many of the fundamental socio-economic issues that should be decided through the political election process.

This will, however, be an election vastly different from the ones we have experienced before. Gone will be the familiar rallies, when the entire country takes on a festive atmosphere and many are focused on the political contests. This time, it will be a very sedate affair.

But it should not be any less significant, because what is at stake is our future, which is now dependent on how we successfully complete a political transformation.

Those elected will have to craft a new economic and social narrative to make Singapore as exceptional as before despite the challenging conditions ahead.

In the midst of a pandemic, there is also the risk that the election is reduced to a referendum on the Government's performance in managing the crisis. This is certainly an important issue, but not the only one.

But discussions on a whole range of critical issues that affect our lives need a social context and atmosphere that may be missing - the hustings and rallies, as well as arguments in coffee shops and our neighbourhoods.

Even with the limitations, we can still be passionately engaged. New election rules must not dampen the spirit and avenues for robust discussions on our collective interests. In recent months, many people have gone through an experience that has affected and shaped their lives and choices, perhaps forever. We must hear their stories, because those elected carry a responsibility to represent their constituents in the highest office.

This is also about our own political education. We must respect anyone who wishes to take up the noble cause to represent and serve the people, regardless of his background and political persuasion. We should not dismiss those who are brave enough to mount an attempt to defeat the familiar incumbents who have been consistently elected in the past.

Instead, we should collectively ensure that despite the restrictions imposed for necessary safe distancing, there is a good, clean, transparent and honest fight.

Zulkifli Baharudin

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