At the risk of sounding like a party-pooper, the Singapore Democrats want to offer a reality check just in case we all get carried away and think that this election is really about Singaporeans having a choice.
Let us be realistic, on 6 May the PAP will be returned to power and thereafter normal autocratic services will be resumed.
The hullabaloo will carry on for a few weeks, but it will eventually die down and the PAP will continue to raise prices and the people will continue to suffer in silence.
So why the need for elections? For the simple reason that the PAP needs to show to the rest of the world that it conducts elections and, by extension, is a democratically – and therefore legitimately – elected government.
The operative word here is "show". GEs in Singapore have all the trappings and form of democratic elections found in free countries but are, in reality, cleaved off of all substance.
Some people may say that such cynicism is unwarranted. Is it really? Let's take it from the horses' mouths:
Mr Teo Chee Hean said: "A two-party system would put us on the dangerous road to contention when we should play as one team."
Mr George Yeo stated: Singapore cannot function "solely on the basis of one-man-one-vote democracy."
These are not mere ministerial musings. They are backed up by the grand patriarch of all ministers, Mr Lee Kuan Yew, who said: "But we haven't found it necessary yet [to change the one-man-one-vote system]. If it became necessary we should do it."
If the PAP is prepared to change the sacrosanct one-man-one-vote system, it is certainly prepared to take comparatively less drastic measures – which it already has such as introducing GRCs, banning podcasts, using lawsuits to cripple opponents, going after printers, etc. – to prolong its choke-hold on power.
Crush and obey
It is for this reason that the Singapore Democrats are calling for reform of the political system and it is for this reason that the PAP – and its media – is stopping at nothing to crush the SDP.
What kinds of reform the SDP has in mind and how we go about achieving them are matters for a separate discussion.
For now, we would like to focus on how the PAP-controlled media is relentlessly and viciously trying to ensure the demise of the SDP.
There is not a single day – nay, a single story – that the media put out that is favourable of the SDP. Granted, the SDP has not done everything without error but which political party has?
But reporting of the Singapore Democrats has been singularly biased and vicious. For instance, coverage of the SDP's Nomination Day press conference during which the Party presented its candidates as well as the issues it will be campaigning on was almost zero compared to the full-bodied reports given to other parties, replete with flashy coloured photographs.
And speaking of photographs, the press will print anything that shows SDP members in an awkward and unflattering moment – the more damaging the picture, the merrier.
For example, Dr Chee Soon Juan had met the press a few days before the elections began to read out a statement and answer questions. During the entire time while he stood there, photographers clicked away. But the picture that appeared in the newspapers the following day showed him walking half-way past the door, creating the impression that he was trying to run away or hide from something.
Photographs of Mr Ling How Doong and Ms Chee Siok Chin often show them unsmiling and unfriendly.
Of course, it goes without saying that the PAP leaders are always presented in larger-than-life, heroic poses - ones that even Superman would be proud of.
Not just about this election
It is this tailoring of news and the determined cutting down of the SDP that the more discerning Singaporeans must take note of. It is important to see that the Singapore Democrats not only advocate reform but we are also, with the help of civil society activists, working towards this end.
We believe that taking part in elections once every five years without asking hard questions about the election system itself is not the way forward.
If anything, the interim period between elections is even more important – a period during which political parties and civil society must come together to press for electoral reform.
Without a system that ensures that the opposition parties and civil society can participate freely – at least as freely as the PAP – in elections, we can wait long, long (to use a Singaporean patois) and nothing will change.
And if nothing changes, the people will always be at the mercy of the ruling elite.
The SDP is not just campaigning for this election, it is campaigning for democracy in the longer-term. And it is because we are embarking on this journey, one that will eventually see the PAP become the opposition, that the ruling party is sparing no effort to ensure our destruction.
But we are convinced that that there is no alternative except to push for reform because without a genuine change in the political system, no one is safe from the PAP's machinations.
It may be the SDP today, it will be someone else tomorrow.
1 May 2006
Pictures of the SDP Rally at Woodlands are available here.