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Keeping up with GE2020: My experience as a first-time voter

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With an election held in the middle of a pandemic and a recession looming, here's how I decided who to vote for this GE2020.

Growing up, I've always found the General Elections to be an exciting time. I'd overhear my family members discuss the latest updates, go for rallies, and on polling day, we would gather at my grandma's house for a big family meal while awaiting results. 

While COVID-19 meant that there were no more physical rallies and big gatherings at my grandma's house, this year's election (GE2020) was still just as thrilling as I had the experience of being a first-time voter. 

Once it was announced that parliament was dissolved, I began looking through social media accounts and news websites to learn more about potential candidates and parties that may be contesting. I'm living in the Jalan Besar Group Representation Constituency (GRC), which meant that I would be voting for either the People's Action Party (PAP) or Peoples Voice (PV). 

I am in my final year of studies as an undergraduate and I wanted to vote for a party that addressed my concerns as a young adult moving into the working world during an economic downturn. As I only had one vote, I believe that making an informed and educated choice was key. 

Thus, I dedicated about an hour or two every day to learn about party manifestos, watch debates and read up on the candidates. 

instagram-live
I watched an Instagram Live interview with Assistant Professor Walid J. Abdullah, a public policy and global affairs lecturer from Nanyang Technological University, to learn more about governance and elections.

As a minority living in Singapore, 
it was especially vital that I voted for someone who would represent me, and speak up about issues that were important to me. One example is the ethnic quotas in public housing that meant a smaller number of units available to minorities, resulting in longer waiting times. 

However, there were no specific arguments on the topic from the PAP and PV that stood out to me, so my decision on who to vote for began to focus more on employment and the cost of living in Singapore. 

Personally, I thought PV's suggestion to exempt basic necessities and medical services from GST would be very helpful to many Singaporeans, especially lower-income families. 

As polling day drew closer, the political climate grew much more intense. Watching debates and listening to expert opinions was definitely very insightful. For example, reading about the PAP's plan on tackling the looming recession and saving jobs was compelling. 

However, as someone without much knowledge in economics, it was sometimes overwhelming to learn about why there needed to be an increase in GST, or even why parties were proposing minimum wage. 

Despite having done an extensive amount of research prior to making my final decision, I felt that it was just not the manifestos and rallies that were important to look at, but the individual candidates too. I didn't want to just want to vote for a leader with impressive ideas, but also someone who had the heart to listen and dedication to serve the people. 

Polling-Card
Being able to vote was a very liberating and insightful experience for me. 
PHOTO CREDIT: AZRA RAUFF 

As the big day rolled around, I was enthusiastic to vote for the future of my constituency and country. 

Being in the polling station was a surreal feeling, it almost felt as if I was taking an exam I had prepared really hard for. However, being a first-time voter, I was a little confused about what to do and where to go. 

As embarrassing as it is to admit, I almost walked out of the polling station without dropping the ballot paper into the ballot box. Thankfully, the polling officers on site were extremely kind and helpful in guiding me. 

While GE2020 was a lot to keep up with, I really did learn so much from the entire experience. I've gained a much deeper understanding of the political climate in Singapore and I have a better comprehension of policies surrounding housing, employment and education. 

Having this knowledge has definitely increased my sense of identity as a Singaporean. It has also motivated me to ponder about what I would like to see in the future of politics and Singapore. For starters, I would like to see more attention on social issues surrounding race, and I would be happy to see a greater diversity of people being represented in the political scene. 

The biggest takeaway, however, was realising that it is important to be up-to-date with politics. Your vote shouldn't solely be dependent on the rallying period but should also take into account what happens in the five years prior to that. While it might not be the most attractive topic to keep up to trend with, it is worth knowing how politics will shape your life. 

As Assistant Professor Walid J. Abdullah says: "You may not care about politics, but politics cares about you". I completely agree - whether you like it or not, politics will impact your life. 

 BANNER AND TEASER PHOTO CREDIT: AZRA RAUFF

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