Participation in politics strengthens patriotism

December 19, 2010
Singapore Democrats

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Party Treasurer Mr Gerald Sng and Young Democrat Mr Ahmad Suhaimi were in Taiwan to observe the local elections held there in late November to see how the parties battled it out.Singapore Democrats

Two Singapore Democrats were in Taiwan to observe the local elections held there in late November. Party Treasurer Mr Gerald Sng and Young Democrat Mr Ahmad Suhaimi spent five days visiting the various Taiwanese cities of Taipei, Xinbei, Taichung, Kaohsiung and Tainan to see how the parties battled it out.

They were part of a Council of Asian Liberals and Democrats (CALD) delegation invited by the Taiwan Foundation for Democracy (TFD) and the Democratic Progressive Party (DPP). 
“What struck me was the level of professionalism in the campaign organisation,” Mr Suhaimi said, “Youth volunteers from schools and universities were deeply involved in the campaigns where issues like university fees were debated.”

According to a senior DPP staff, the young people in Taiwan are very enthusiastic about democracy, elections and politics and they take it as a natural course to participate in political activities, be they volunteering for the campaigns or participating in discussions and rallies.

Unlike in Singapore, elections in Taiwan are conducted by the Central Elections Commission (CEC), an independent body made up of mostly non-partisan members.

Elections are held on fixed dates to ensure fairness to all contesting parties. Parties receive public funds to cover their operating campaign costs to ensure that the influence of large corporations and other actors are kept in check.

The delegation, comprising of representatives from CALD sister parties from Mongolia, Malaysia, Indonesia, the Philippines, Hong Kong, Burma and Singapore were deeply impressed by the sheer passion of the Taiwanese electorate about democracy and the right to determine their own future.

Political rallies in Taiwan are not at all similar to the ones held in Singapore. Rallies there have a carnival-like atmosphere where huge crowds are entertained by bands and singers. The lively atmosphere attracts especially the younger voters. The high level of participation and involvement from the ordinary folks creates a strong and special bond between the people and the state.

At the rallies, the audience would often break into song. At one rally, a candidate appeared towards the end and broke out into a heartfelt rendition of 母親的名叫台灣 (Mother’s Name is Taiwan). The crowd joined in and sang with adulation and patriotic fervour.

What was perhaps the most amazing observation was when the rally was over, the crowd began cleaning up the area around them and to help the campaign volunteers and staff stack up the chairs before dispersing.

Rallies and political assemblies are not the frightening events that the PAP tries to portray. It uses the spectre of unruly mobs to conjure images of disorder and uses this as an excuse to make election rallies here as staid as possible so that voters stay away.

But observations of this elections in Taiwan as well as in other countries have exposed the PAP’s scaremongering tactics. Over and over again, we have observed that elections and other political events bind citizens to their countries. It creates a sense of participation which translates into national pride and patriotism, something sadly lacking in our own country.

The Singapore Democrats will continue to send our members to these different events in other countries and post reports so that our fellow Singaporeans can get an idea of what is going on in countries that practice democracy. We hope that these reports will help broaden our minds and keep us from being frogs in the well that the PAP wants us to be.