“How the ballots add up in Aljunied GRC, and beyond, will signal which of the two narratives voters were more convinced by” (AHPETC Spat: A Local Issue Or A National Concern?, Lydia Lim).
The problem with the argument in the ST commentary – that “[h]ow the ballots add up in Aljunied GRC, and beyond, will signal which of the two narratives [presented by the People’s Action Party (PAP) and the Workers’ Party (WP) about the purported financial mismanagement of the Aljunied-Hougang-Punggol East Town Council (AHPETC)] voters were more convinced by” (ST, Sep. 4) – is that it is reductive. First, voting preferences are premised upon a plethora of factors, even beyond “local issues” and “national concerns”. Hence, how the ballots add up should be indicative of broader trends or sentiments.
Second, and perhaps more crucially, harping on the AHPETC seems hardly constructive for both the PAP and the WP. In their respective settings they are merely preaching to the converted, to supporters who doubt the intentions or agenda of the other side. Which is why the PAP hopes “that swing voters in other GRCs will hesitate to risk giving their vote to the opposition party”, while the WP frames it as a political attack “purely for electoral gain”.
What is of greater concern is how the competing narratives surrounding the AHPETC brouhaha have crowded out: first, perspectives or substantive proposals mooted by the other opposition parties; second, more meaningful discourse on broader socio-economic issues, especially concrete policy recommendations for the long-term (for instance, what do the PAP and WP mean when they reference “change” or “the future”); and third, deeper scrutiny of the candidates – and their backgrounds – contesting this year.
Which is a shame, because within this short campaigning period – notwithstanding the ubiquity of echo chambers on social media platforms and at rally sites – there is still space for thoughtful conversations. Against a background of low productivity growth and the uncertainty of global markets, what are their financial plans as potential parliamentarians? Beyond their own manifestoes (assuming the details crafted are coherent in the first place), what do they make of the other ideas presented? And more importantly, how do the parties intend to achieve these aims, in terms of budgetary concerns or engagement of the public?
This is not to say that the AHPETC issue is not important. Rather, the rabble-rousing and carnival-like characteristics of an election campaign leave no room for both parties to make headway. The persisting back-and-forth between the PAP and the WP on the AHPETC “spat”, in other words, leaves the electorate none the wiser at the end of the day.