Thursday, August 11, 2005

Singapore-style Elections

The inability of Singapore's ruling elite to permit an election to take place without determining the winner in advance is once again on display.

The post of President has been described as "largely ceremonial", yet one would be excused from drawing the conclusion that the very future of the Republic was at stake. The current incumbent is 81 years old and has been coy about "running" again.

Rather than leave the election to the vagaries of random chance, the nomination procedure was tweaked to ensure that only the right people could even run. The requirements for a candidate are so specific that they result in only a handful of people being eligible. Ironically, the original group of individuals who created Singapore would not qualify.

Having raised the bar high enough to exclude most Singaporeans, there must have been considerable disquiet when an individual actually came forward and filed to run. This spilled into the newspaper on Saturday with a piece that can only be described as a crude attempt at character assasination. Using thinly veiled innuendo, the Straits Times manages to imply that this individual is unfit to run. They even manage to dig up a former collegue who dislikes the individual, as if that in itself made him unfit. This has been followed by articles on subsequent days hinting at dark and unspecified character flaws.

One would have thought that the purpose of elections was to allow voters to draw their own conclusions based on the candidates record and platform. But in Singapore it seems, elections are to crown those pre-selected as suitable.

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