Fittingly, the SG50 election demonstrates that the Singapore polity is indeed evolving progressively. To begin with, it's encouraging that voters will be able to cast votes in all seats for the first time since 1963, and have a choice of a wide swathe of candidates, many with impressive credentials. An election is inevitably a divisive time, when views are polarised as each side seeks to score a political advantage over opponents. Thankfully, for the most part, politicians and their supporters have restrained themselves from going overboard, which might preclude a necessary coming together after the heat of the hustings dissipates.
With leadership transition signalled as a key concern of this election, some might have expected the younger brigade to make a more significant impression on the hustings, though they certainly weren't short of energy on the ground, judging from the way some raced from door to door. Those who are picked to lead the nation will undoubtedly mature on the job, as they acquire the finer points of policy formulation and political communication.
Yet there are many weighty economic and social issues facing the nation that will simply not wait for the young to come of age, so to speak. Those entrusted with the responsibility of charting Singapore's path amid domestic changes, global uncertainties and narrower margins of error will have to hit the ground running. Together with seasoned national leaders, they will have to grapple with the pre-eminent issues of the times troubling not just the city-state but also many other countries - economic competitiveness, population, manpower and social support. Remaining an exceptional nation in a demanding world over the coming decades will call for as much foresight, gumption and sheer effort as was evident among Singapore's pioneer leaders.
All the more, voters will have to weigh their choices well before they step into the voting booth on Friday. There's more to consider than mere slogans about the future which all parties are championing in one way or another. A vote might be based largely on facts or grounded in ideals or values. It might be dictated by reason or be swayed by emotion. The process is anything but simple. Hence the need to act wisely, especially as there is often no panacea for national issues, however seductive an argument might sound. One size will not fit all as society becomes more diverse, and no social giveaway comes without a cost. The true mark of leadership is the vision and empathy to make necessary and fair trade-offs in a pluralistic society. Tough choices have to be made. Singaporeans should head to the polls on Friday, revelling in their democratic right to do so in the year their Republic turned 50, still thriving and free. They should vote with an eye on SG100, and back whoever they trust to get them there.
This article was first published on September 9, 2015.
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