GE2015 shows 'the system works'

ESM Goh Chok Tong with Madam Tan Cheng Siew (left), 68, and Madam Ong Kim Phong, 89, at Marine Crescent on Sept 6, 2015.
PHOTO: The Straits Times

As the election campaign drew to a close yesterday, Emeritus Senior Minister Goh Chok Tong gave this assessment of Singapore voters: They are savvy about what they want for the country and concerned about its future.

In the 2011 general election, voters wanted a GRC for the opposition and they succeeded in doing that, he said. This time round, he sees voters "concerned about the future of Singapore and their own future 10 to 15 years from now".

"They are weighing their options very carefully," he said. "If they make the right choice and we have stability after this, well, that means our system is working.

"Our people understand how to work the system and we will be very confident that our active democracy will continue to work for Singapore in our own interest."

Mr Goh, 74, is fighting his 10th general election and was speaking at a press conference in Marine Parade GRC alongside his People's Action Party (PAP) team members - anchor minister Tan Chuan-Jin, Mr Seah Kian Peng, Dr Fatimah Lateef and Mr Edwin Tong - who face a challenge from the Workers' Party.

Mr Goh said first prime minister Lee Kuan Yew, himself and Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong had sought to build a political model unique to Singapore, and the current robustly contested general election shows that the system is working.

Up to now, nobody had brought up the question of race and religion, as the GRC system had not allowed anyone to go for votes of communities along racial grounds, he said.

Neither had anybody made defamatory remarks against any leaders, Mr Goh added, calling the current polls a "clean election".

"Ours is not the same system as in the West," he said. "It's modified for our needs."

He urged voters to listen to both the PAP and the opposition and think through their points carefully. "Listen to all their arguments and examine the candidates of all parties and then decide for yourself... you decide which is best in your own interest," he said.

Mr Goh, who led the PAP in three general elections, said his priority the day after each election was to build consensus and unite people.

Likening the voting population to a piece of fabric tugged in different directions at election time, he said the sooner people can be brought together after the polls, the sooner the country can move forward.

"That doesn't mean that there should be no diversity of views... consensus must be built around those diversity of views.

"If, after the election, the country doesn't unite, we are finished," cautioned Mr Goh, citing how previous elections had divided Sri Lanka along racial and religious lines.

Mr Tan Chuan-Jin, who is Social and Family Development Minister, said not everyone will be "on the same wavelength", and there will always be tensions.

Tension is helpful, he said, but it had to be kept constructive.

"We still have space for us to really disagree and perhaps have quite vociferous disagreements, yet still want to find common ground where we can. That's something that we want to endeavour to do," he added.

As voters mull over their vote, Mr Tan suggested four questions they should consider: How do they keep Singapore relevant? Is it important to have strong leadership? What kind of political system does Singapore need? What kind of society and nation do they want Singapore to be?

People have to "at least agree to disagree, but where we find agreement, work on that", he added.

This article was first published on September 10, 2015.
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