Even before the Writ of Elections has been issued and campaigning officially begins, the ‘dirty‘ part of politics has started. There are two points we should take note: 1) the arrows are aimed at a PAP candidate, not an opposition, 2) the ones shooting the arrows are NOT opposition parties, but netizens (who are likely to be anti-PAP) and even grassroots leaders (who are likely to be pro-PAP).
What’s wrong with Tin Pei Ling, as a PAP candidate? I suspect the main issue isn’t about her credentials or ability, but about the PAP leadership’s decision to field her in the elections. She seems relatively lightweight compared to other new candidates. Why her, instead of other more experienced and matured people? No one knows. Maybe she would make a very good MP. But from first impressions, she seems to be riding on the coattails of the PAP name to be elected. Furthermore, she is expected to contest in MacPherson, under Marine Parade GRC, anchored by Senior Minister Goh himself.
Nothing wrong, if a candidate links herself or himself to the party reputation or another experienced politician. But the sad fact is that she is contesting in a GRC, where she can easily tap on the party machinery and the previous team’s track record. In a SMC, where she has to fight as a lone candidate against one or few, her abilities will show for herself. And her critics will be silenced. In a GRC, voters and the rest of Singapore can’t really see her efforts. So criticism will continue.
With the dirty stuff hurled at Tin Pei Ling, how should she react? This is the advice given by a minister, as summarized by Channel NewsAsia: “shut out the noise”. Eh this is probably the best course of action for her. At the end of the day S’porean voters are looking out for who can best relate to their needs and serve them. Personal stuff might or might not be important, but I doubt it would be a decisive factor in swaying voters.
In Siew Kum Hong’s take on the issue, he said:
The consequence of all this, is that people will be deterred from joining politics, even more so than before. I for one will openly admit that I have thought about it and decided against taking the plunge, in part because of these things. I have been a victim of these whispers. It is not fun. It is not right. It is not what I would want Singapore politics to be like.
Personally I think this mudslinging etc is part and parcel of politics. There are always MEAN people out there. It’s how the candidates react which matters most to voters, and if voters believe their candidates’ reactions are indicators of their abilities. Siew decided not to enter politics because he fears the dirty stuff in it. Well, if he does, he probably wouldn’t make a good MP anyway (or he would lose if he contests): he seems to back down quite easily.
Hence while I agree with Siew that elections are about candidates and policies, not about their cutesy poses or Kate Spade bags, the FACT is that meanies always exist. Voters are not dumb, you know. By observing the candidates’ reactions, they can gain a rounded portrait of their strengths and weaknesses. So they vote accordingly.