So we get to vote

In an email to a friend from Hong Kong yesterday, I mentioned:
I'm also distracted [from my university essays] because in Singapore, the general elections are going on. Exciting times for us.
His response, brief as it was, brought me up short:
I wish I can elect our government head in Hong Kong ...
I don't know much about the Hong Kong political system and how it came to be what it is today (not fully representative democracy, is about as far as I understand). And yes, there are plenty of problems with representative democracy in any country, and to what extent one's vote "counts" for anything. In Singapore we can argue till the cows come home about whether voting against the People's Action Party will change anything, and we still won't know the answer till the next five years have passed (well, we won't know then either, but we'll have more to argue about).

But hey: we get to vote.

It does come down to that vote you cast, you know.

If you think, this is meaningless, I don't give a flying eff about who's in power for _____ reasons, and you cast your vote accordingly --- then that is the choice you've made at the balloting box.

If you think, this is meaningful for _____ reasons and you cast your vote based on some kind of concern founded on those reasons, then that is the choice you've made.

And all the votes --- those cast because they had to be, those cast because they wanted to be and could be* --- go into a big box (speaking metaphorically here). And depending on how the numbers tumble out --- by candidate, by constituency, by party -- they give us a certain type of Singapore citizenry and society.

Yesterday, my friend's email made me think: Oh thank goodness, I have a vote. Thank goodness some people decided to run as political candidates against the People's Action Party so that I can exercise my vote. Thank goodness what I can do and be as a person is not controlled by a state that has absolute, unchecked power over me for all the days of my life.

Of course casting one vote in one general election doesn't seem like much. If you wanted a more fully representative democracy, you could argue that we should vote for every "important" policy change, or vote for our political leaders every year instead of every (maximum of) five years. And those are points worth debating in public and with political leaders (whoever they turn out to be, after polling day on 7 May).

If you want a less representative democracy, well, you can take that up with political leaders too. (I'll fight you on that one, though.)

But hey, at least we get to vote.

* I feel for the residents of Tanjong Pagar GRC, the only one not being contested in the 2011 general election (though not for want of trying).



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