Then last night, my ex-landlord called me up and said, "Your polling cards are here with me! Please come to collect them, Voting Day is almost here." Apparently, as we had moved house only after a certain cut-off date, our old address is the relevant one for GE2011. That means we would be treated as Marine Parade GRC voters.
Sorry, Mr Low Thia Kiang. That means you just lost two votes in Aljunied.
Since I am now a Marine Parade voter, here are my thoughts on the Marine Parade GRC. Many, many people have been comparing Nicole Seah and Tin Pei Ling. The reasons are obvious. The two candidates are very similar in some ways, and very different in others. So they are a highly interesting pair to compare and contrast.
A lot has already been said about Pei Ling, so I won't rehash. All I want to say, after watching the videos and reading the news, is that she is not impressive. It's not just the youth. Even for a 27-year-old, she is not impressive.
I try to think back to myself when I was 27, where I was, and what I was doing. And I try to think of my colleagues and friends, in that age-group at that time. I honestly feel that Pei Ling does not compare well (and none of us were even trying to run for elections).
In fairness, I should add that most of my colleagues and friends in that age-group at that time were lawyers. Not only that, litigation lawyers. Effective communication was an essential skill, and so was the ability to make strong, persuasive, convincing arguments. You also needed to carry yourself with some gravitas. It was part of the job.
At that age, I was already appearing in Yong Pung How's court, doing criminal appeal cases (Yong Pung How was the former Chief Justice of Singapore). His extreme sarcasm and intolerance of incompetence was very well-known. CJ Yong had no qualms about butchering even senior lawyers with his brutally sharp tongue, if they did not prepare their cases well or spoke ineloquently in his court.
And I think that CJ Yong would have slaughtered any lawyer (metaphorically), if she had gone "I don't know what to saaaaay ..." and stomped her feet in his courtroom.
I am not saying that Pei Ling is very bad for a 27-year-old. I am saying that she is not impressive, for a 27-year-old. If you are 27 and you want to run for election, you have to be very impressive in how you present yourself. That's because you need to compensate for the disadvantage of your youth and perceived immaturity. But Pei Ling is not impressive. She doesn't meet the mark.
However, 24-year-old Nicole Seah is very impressive. I have seen the videos, the way she speaks and handles questions from the press. This girl has a brain, has a heart and speaks with sincerity, conviction and remarkable composure. Nicole isn't merely impressive for a 24-year-old - she is quite impressive compared to Singapore politicians of any age group.
Unlike LKY, Nicole even knows how to make a strong point, without sounding mean or vindictive. She doesn't say anything like "Go back to China, Chen Shao Mao" or "You will repent, Aljunied voters". Nicole is down-to-earth, authentic and friendly, qualities that I find quite appealing.
(May I add that in terms of looks, Nicole Seah is also much more appealing than LKY).
When I first told my wife about Nicole Seah, my wife was not convinced. Mrs Wang just groaned, "First we have a 27-year-old, now we have a 24-year-old. Things are getting from bad to worse." But I persuaded Mrs Wang to watch the videos of Nicole Seah in action. Eight minutes later, Mrs Wang changed her mind. She said, "Now I understand why people are talking so much about Nicole Seah. Because she is REALLY good."
And indeed, I read that as of today, Nicole has just overtaken Lee Kuan Yew, on Facebook, as the most popular politician in Singapore. (Based on the number of Facebook "likes").
Of course, the problem is that Marine Parade GRC is not just Tin Pei Ling versus Nicole Seah. If that was the case, Nicole would probably win 90% of the votes. And most of the remaining 10% votes for Pei Ling would probably be compassionate votes, given in the hope that that Pei Ling doesn't suffer any long-term emotional trauma.
Marine Parade GRC is more about Goh Chok Tong vs Nicole Seah. And of course, Goh is a PAP heavyweight. He has held numerous key appointments - Prime Minister, Deputy Prime Minister, Defence Minister etc, and of course, he has been an elected MP for Marine Parade for the longest time. If you want to talk about actual experience and stature, Nicole Seah cannot hold a candle to Goh Chok Tong.
So what rational basis can a Marine Parade GRC voter possibly have, to vote for NSP (Nicole) rather than the PAP (Goh Chok Tong)? Let me offer a few possible arguments. Not saying that these arguments are sufficient - every voter must decide that for himself (and I'm still undecided myself). I'm just laying out the reasons, for your consideration. See which ones make sense to you.
1. "The PAP is almost certainly going to win in Marine Parade anyway. But I will vote for the NSP, to give them a better percentage. This will send a symbolic message to the PAP, to show that I do not think well of their performance over the past 5 years."
2. "The GRC system is seriously wrong in principle, and the PAP has been using it for decades, to protect their weaker candidates (like Pei Ling) and give them a free ride into Parliament. I cannot agree with this. Although Goh Chok Tong deserves a lot of respect, I have to vote for NSP to show my displeasure with the GRC system."
3. "Even the most experienced PAP ministers are not as indispensable as they may appear. One might have thought that ministers such as Lim Boon Heng, Jayakumar and Abdullah Tarmugi are all essential, but this year they are stepping down and retiring anyway. Just like them, Goh Chok Tong may not be that absolutely necessary."
4. "Even if Goh Chok Tong loses, it's not like he died and Singapore lost him forever. They will probably redeploy him in some other new and important role. Such as the President of Singapore. Or the Chairman of the CPF Board. Or the CEO of GIC. Or the Special Advisor to Temasek Holdings. Or Singapore's United Nations chief representative, or something."
5. "I am not voting on municipal lines. I am voting on a national basis. I am more concerned about the country and its Parliament, than the question of who's going to clear my rubbish and build new playgrounds. And I think that what this country needs is more Opposition members in Parliament."
Let me know what you think, folks.