Ever since the general election was announced, I could not avoid picking up the thoughts of many of my peers set to vote for the first time. Many, from my personal and imperfect observations, seem more interested to spoil their vote rather than to vote for any party or individual standing.
The nature of Singaporean elections does not permit the voter to not participate; hence, the choice to spoil one’s vote is the only method of displaying non-participation. It does, however, also reflect the voter’s belief that none of the candidates on the ballot are suitable. Both approaches are equally valid and fair.
For the betterment of our nation and democracy, I encourage first time voters and disillusioned voters, or even first time disillusioned voters, to consider the consequences of vote spoiling.
Singapore has had a one-party government since its independence; we have undeniably enjoyed the fruits of such governance but have also experienced its shortfalls as well. But what is indisputable is that Singapore is, in principle, a democratic nation. A major facet of democracy is the presence of checks and balances. A one-party state and government can enjoy the lack of hindrance of any checks that may be imposed upon them; such expediency which is permitted through the lack of these checks have arguably produced the shortfalls that we criticize.
The only check that our system can immediately offer is that of what happens in parliament. A resilient democracy is founded on the interests of the people, the role of the party is to act as a vehicle to actualize the wishes of the people. It is my opinion that with greater representation in parliament from all across the spectrum can we build a more vibrant, energetic, and consultative democracy.
Our frustrations today are a product of ever changing factors, in a country like Singapore where laws reign stringently supreme, the government remains an integral part of our lives. If we want our lives to improve, and changes to be made, then we must have a government that listens.
A government will truly listen to its people when it faces political competition and pressure from parties that pledge, and demonstrate, to do better.
A spoilt vote will not bring about a more representative government, nor will it create a system that listens more. It will only serve to strengthen the status-quo.
I do rest my case, for ultimately it remains your choice to do what you want with your ballot. Is that not the beauty of democracy? And for that freedom, should not we protect it?
— Nigel Li
Nigel Li is a co-founder of singaporevotes.com and is a contributing writer to the Taipei Times. He is currently a student at the Moscow State Institute of International Relations.