What’s at stake in the Hougang by-election

Now that the by-elections for Hougang has been called, it is interesting to see how the ruling party is trying to down play this by-election by characterizing it as a “local election, about local stuff“.

I wish they did not do that.  I wish the PAP couched this by-election as a “referendum” of how they have fared in the last 12 months since the last general election. It will help the PAP in many ways. If the election is more than a “local’ one, the PAP can take lessons from it.

The PAP can’t just choose to set the agenda by merely saying that this is a local election. There are plenty of things that the PAP has not come around to answering and for what it’s worth, the general sentiment is that it is back to status quo.

For all the “apology” that the PM rendered last year, not much has happened.  He was vague enough in the apology and kept it open but more importantly, there is the missing part of what will be done by when.

I am reminded of this very interesting TED talk by Chimamanda Adichie about the danger of a single story, and by extension the danger of having only one party in parliament deciding on the future of this country.

Voting in the PAP candidate into parliament for the Hougang constituency will have the person become yet another “me too”/”yes sir”/”+1” statistic in parliament, with no distinguishing feature or even a care in the world. He will be feted by the PAP leadership as being a hero and a slayer of the WP. No doubt, he will say that he is there to represent the aspirations of the people of Hougang, but over some time, it will all be a foot note in history and the PAP will continue in their usual “I know better than you, so shut-up” stance. They’ll also get the constituency to be redrawn and included into the adjunct Ang Mo Kio GRC. This is the PAP we are dealing with.  They rewrote the book on gerrymandering and mutton-barrel politics.

If, instead, a WP candidate or anyone non-PAP wins the seat, that fact alone  means that the party in power will continue to do what they need to “win back the seat” in 2016. If I were a voter in Hougang, I think that’s what I would like to see.

Let there be competition. Let there be alternate stories to be told. Let there be a flourishing of ideas and opportunities.

A victory in Hougang by the WP will mean the dreams and hopes of Singaporeans in wanting a democratic, pluralistic, caring and successful First World country is on track.

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