Archive for the 'All' Category
by Adrian Kwong
Potong Pasir was regained by the People’s Action Party by 114 votes out of 17,327 cast. At the same time, 242 votes were rejected, a tiny number that could clearly have made a difference in the result. People are asking what “happened” with those 242 votes (“Second-lowest rate of spoilt votes since 1988″, May 11).
As someone who volunteered for election duty both as a Polling Agent and a Counting Agent, though not in Potong Pasir, I offer my thoughts. (I am a Singaporean in his 30s; I do not live nor vote in Potong Pasir.)
First, not everyone knows what to do.
As a Polling Agent, I saw several voters who appeared handicapped and did not know what to do with the ballot paper. Some struggled to even hold the pen. These voters were assisted by family members to the collection point, and per Elections Department practice, escorted to the voting booths by election officials who are supposed to explain the process.
Several times during my shift, the officials – having tried to explain the process to these voters, before telling the Polling Agents that the voter could not express any opinion – proposed posting a blank vote on the voter’s behalf. Surely, this must be the most appropriate vote in these circumstances.
Election officials also assisted some blind voters to mark their votes, but there were many older voters who were plainly quite weak. Looking at the actual ballot papers later in the day, I saw quite a few scratches, streaks and other indications which I believed were attempts to overcome physical limitations; some of these would later get rejected as they crossed lines or were not clear.
Second, not everyone gets their ballot slip right.
I am sure some spoilt their votes whether in protest or fear. Having said that, I also believe that some voters might have made mistakes in indicating their vote despite the clear official instructions to mark an “X”.
So what happens if a vote is not clear? Under Section 50(1) of the Parliamentary Elections Act, votes can be rejected for several reasons: If they lack the official seal, are blank, bear any means of identifying a voter such as a name, show more than one choice, or are otherwise void for uncertainty.
Having said that, the Returning Officer has the discretion under Section 50(2) to allow any vote that, while not strictly in compliance with the instructions, “clearly indicates the intention of the voter and the candidate … for whom he gives his vote”. This is the all-important section that is applied to decide whether questionable votes should be awarded to a party, or whether they are stamped “REJECTED” and tallied separately.
Some ballots had a tick instead of a cross (valid), some had one tick and one cross (not valid). Some voters had ticked or marked the party symbol instead of the box (valid), others had a small line in one box and a bigger one in another (usually invalid). Some that had words in various languages and another with a signature (valid if clearly for one party and not a name that could be identified). I even saw one bearing a squiggly drawing that looked a lot like one of the party symbols (valid).
In absolute terms, though, the vast majority of votes cast are very, very clear as to the intention of the voter. In the big picture, it is a very small number that is in issue. Of, say, 3,200 votes at my counting table, perhaps only 50 were rejected, of which a third were blank. Maybe 100 more were adjudicated.
Having taken part in the adjudication process – a Counting Agent must fight for each and every vote that could be for their candidate – I can imagine how much more fiercely contested it was at the Potong Pasir counting centres.
Having seen the electoral process up close, I think the officers, even when adjudicating against me, were efficient and professional throughout. Everyone I interacted with seemed earnest and committed to doing their job fairly and properly.
I also believe that having Counting and Polling Agents from both parties present makes it harder for any one party to dominate the polls by blunt tools as forging ballots, intimidation or bribing voters. Having seen firsthand how carefully the secrecy of the ballot is enforced, I am also convinced the actual votes are truly secret, serial numbers or not.
In the end, there is more to the issue than simply saying that 242 Potong Pasir voters were irresponsible in spoiling their votes. Instead of focussing on the rejected votes – and I really do not see any legal basis for a petition to challenge the results – we should be asking ourselves what we can do to make sure that every single voter in the next election knows how to clearly, correctly and fearlessly indicate his or her choice at the ballot box, so that more votes count next time.
This letter is adapted from the writer’s Facebook post.
Letter from Danny G Tan
I REFER to the article “A generation that does not remember: MM” (May 9). In the lead-up to this election, I have had many political discussions with family and friends.
While we may not agree on everything, we are unanimous in our respect for Minister Mentor Lee Kuan Yew and his comrades for helping lay the foundations for Singapore.
We are uniformly thankful for their vision and hard work. However, our gratitude towards this first generation of leaders cannot simply be translated to an unquestioning, unyielding support for the People’s Action Party (PAP).
The current generation of Singaporeans is a product of the nation they built. As intended, we are well-educated, cosmopolitan and a “thinking” bunch.
Therefore, while my generation lives in a wealthy and modern nation that has indeed seen some hardship, we, too, are now an active force in trying to shape Singapore’s future.
With about 60 per cent of the vote going to the PAP, Singaporeans have shown that while some are firmly grounded in the belief that PAP is the way for the future, 40 per cent of us are keen to explore alternatives.
With more political space opening up, I am confident that my generation will continue to remember the efforts of the PAP pioneers, even as we contemplate new political options.
Letter from James Ang
There have been letters about how the voting electorate does not remember what we went through or that they do not appreciate the stability, security and progress we enjoyed. It creates the perception that voting for the Opposition is a negative; it also creates an impression of wallowing in self-pity.
Let us put things in perspective: The Opposition won only six seats.
The PAP still holds an overwhelming majority and governments the world over would love to come close to their GE2011 performance. Although there was a political awakening of sorts, citizens have given the PAP a clear mandate to govern.
Another point is the increasing expectations of Singapore youth and, I wonder, what is wrong with that? They have proven that they are not apathetic. They have come forward with courage to participate in our political process and spoken sincerely about what they felt was good for our country.
It is natural to expect more as the world progresses; it drives us to better ourselves and our quality of life. We want more for our children than we had growing up.
It is a fact that our very effective and efficient Government is paid handsomely and has delivered time and time again.
Its sterling record speaks for itself – and that is exactly why there will always be a growing expectation. When one pays for a first-class airline seat, one expects first-class service.
There are more challenges ahead in our volatile world. It is time to get over the election and for the elected MPs to start working to deliver what they promised.
Let the healing begin, let us close ranks as one country and move forward together.
Letter from Shirley Tan
What letter-writers Jasmine Chua and Lewis Kwong (May10) said touched my heart because those were the same thoughts I shared with all those who asked me about the General Election.
I was very poor when I was young but because we have a good Government and, most importantly, because “I want to”, I strove to do better for myself and my family. I am now living in a three-room flat with an outstanding mortgage loan but I am content because there is no fear of the future.
To get out of poverty, teach your children the importance of a good education for a better future.
Our Government provides bursaries, pocket money, scholarships; there is tuition in schools and at community centres for children with no one to help them at home. We have MPs who get us the help we need, as long as we are reasonable.
We grumble at everything. When I was queuing to cast my ballot, a young able-bodied man grumbled: “Why the voting must be here. Why can’t they do it below my block?” It is very sad that many of us want everything served up to us. On the whole, Singaporeans are very blessed.
Spoilt votes accounted for 2.17 per cent of the total votes cast in last Saturday’s General Election (GE), the second-lowest rate since Group Representation Constituencies (GRCs) were introduced in 1988.
And while political observers felt the low spoilt vote rate in this GE augurs well for the Republic’s political development, they also argued for clear guidelines on what would be deemed a spoilt vote.
There were 44,714 spoilt votes among the 2.06 million votes cast last Saturday and the rate of 2.17 per cent was lower than the 2006 GE rate of 2.3 per cent.
The lowest rate occurred in 2001 when spoilt votes accounted for just 2.13 per cent of the 1.39 million votes cast, while the 1991 GE saw the highest rate of 2.7 per cent.
Given the keen contest, Singapore Management University law lecturer Eugene Tan felt voters may have felt “acutely” the need to make a firm stand, as there may have been “a subtle concern” among voters of “a freak election outcome” – either the People’s Action Party losing a lot more seats or even power, as well as the Opposition not winning a single seat at all.
Foreign Minister George Yeo – leader of the PAP’s Aljunied GRC team – had also cautioned against voters spoiling their votes, although they faced an “emotional dilemma” between voting for the PAP or their Workers’ Party opponents.
At a rally on April 30, Mr Yeo said “the vote is about your future” and voters should “examine the alternatives carefully”.
Independent scholar Derek da Cunha also pointed out that there were more contests this GE compared to 2001, where only 29 of the 84 seats were contested.
“The desire by voters to make their vote count in this election was far greater than at any time,” he said.
Thus, the keen contests in Hougang, Aljunied GRC and Potong Pasir saw the lowest rates of spoilt votes this GE.
But this has not quelled Internet chatter about what constitutes a spoilt vote as the winning margin of 114 votes in Potong Pasir was less than the number of spoilt votes of 242.
An invalid vote is any ballot paper which is not perforated properly or stamped with the official mark or initialled by an officer.
Ballot papers which are unmarked, which give the vote to more than one candidate, or where the intention of the voter is unclear, will also be deemed invalid votes.
Former Nominated Member of Parliament Siew Kum Hong felt that the Elections Department should publish clear guidelines on what constitutes a spoilt vote.
“This is not to suggest that counting officials are biased but rather that reasonable people acting in good faith could reasonably differ on whether a vote should be rejected,” he said.
“Otherwise, some may continue to question the fairness of the process, which unnecessarily undermines public perception of the integrity of the process.” he added.
Meanwhile, Ang Mo Kio GRC, Pasir Ris-Punggol GRC and West Coast GRC witnessed the highest rates of spoilt votes among all wards.
Despite the mismatch between the PAP and Opposition teams in two of the GRCs – Ang Mo Kio and Pasir Ris-Punggol – SMU Assistant Professor Tan argued voters who spoilt their votes were making “a form of protest”.
“They were not voting the Opposition but were also unwilling to vote for the PAP. They may be sending a message that they were unhappy,” Assistant Prof Tan said.
Three wards with the highest spoilt vote rate:
- Ang Mo Kio GRC – 3.00%
- Pasir Ris-Punggol GRC – 2.85%
- West Coast GRC – 2.53%
Three wards with the lowest spoilt vote rate:
- Hougang – 1.13%
- Aljunied – 1.34%
- Potong Pasir – 1.51%
Two opposition parties that did not win any seats in the General Election (GE), the National Solidarity Party (NSP) and the Singapore Democratic Party (SDP), are looking into the possibility of a merger.
The NSP chief, Mr Goh Meng Seng, said yesterday that he has been approached by the SDP’s Tan Jee Say to discuss the idea, which was put forward after the election.
Mr Goh said he will raise the matter for discussion at his party’s next Central Executive Committee meeting tomorrow. He expects the discussion to take some time.
NSP fielded the most candidates in the election but did not win any seats in Parliament.
When contacted, Mr Tan acknowledged that a casual conversation on a merger had taken place over breakfast. He said SDP chief, Dr Chee Soon Juan, had in fact encouraged him to initiate the conversation with NSP.
Mr Tan said their party is always open to greater cooperation for Opposition unity and the idea of a merger – which would allow more efficient use of resources – resonated with voters and supporters.
Mr Tan, a former Principal Private Secretary to then Deputy Prime Minister Goh Chok Tong, was one of 11 candidates fielded by the SDP in this year’s election.
His team garnered almost 40 per cent of valid votes in the Holland-Bukit Timah Group Representation Constituency.
Letter from Tan Wee Tong
THE 2011 General Election saw 93 per cent of voters exercising their rights in our compulsory voting system.
In fact, according to the International Institute for Democracy and Electoral Assistance, Singapore scores very well in terms of voter turnout, along with other compulsory voting countries like Australia and Belgium.
However, absentee voters may have had a greater repercussion in this watershed election.
I wonder why 153,412 Singaporeans registered did not turn up to vote.
Their absence may have had significant implication for the final outcome.
For example, in Potong Pasir Single Member Constituency (SMC), the winning margin was 114 votes.
Where were the 1,495 absentee electors who could have granted Mr Sitoh Yih Pin a better mandate or helped Mrs Lina Chiam retain the Singapore People’s Party’s seat?
Similarly, 3,191 electors were missing in Joo Chiat SMC where a difference of 382 votes settled the outcome.
Voting is a duty of every citizen as it represents our trust in whom we choose to govern us.
We are also casting our votes for future generations. Voting gives affirmation to good policies and grants the government its rightful mandate.
Hence, like National Service obligation, we should penalise vote “defaulters”.
On top of the fact that they will be struck off the electoral register, I would propose a fine of S$1,000 on all citizens who did not vote, other than those who are travelling or working overseas, hospitalised, gravely ill, intellectually challenged or have other special extenuating circumstances.
Letter from Mohamed Fairoz Bin Shariff
I REFER to the letter by Mr Ng Ya Ken, “Why lose the losers?” (May 9). He suggested that we modify the existing election system “to allow a ‘wild card’ window in a General Election so that a second chance could be provided for certain losing candidates to have another contest immediately after”.
I am discomfited by such a proposal which goes against the spirit of democracy and the will of the people.
If the voters of a constituency feel their voice is not being represented by an incumbent, then he or she will be voted out.
The people would have spoken and yet is their voice to be ignored such that the candidate can live to fight another day in another constituency?
I agree with Mr Ng that our election system needs to be modified.
The better solution is for the Group Representation Constituency system to be abolished. Constituents have to vote in a team of candidates and we end up having good ministers being voted out.
An Single Member Constituency (SMC) system would ensure individual candidates get into Parliament based on their own capabilities.
The fact that Mr Michael Palmer, a candidate from a minority community, has been elected as MP for Punggol East goes to show that the minority community will not lose out if Singapore reverts to an all-SMC system.