The curious thing called vote

Posted: April 20, 2011 in Politics
Tags: , , ,

Major political parties in Singapore are preparing for the general elections, which will happen in under three weeks. At the heart of the elections is the vote, the item coveted by all those competing to be elected.

The vote, on the surface, does not appear to be something difficult to understand. It is an indication by a voter of his or her choice of candidate on a piece of paper. The winner is deemed to be the one with the most number of votes, the one who is chosen by the people to represent them. The winner can then claim popular support and mandate.

At least that’s what the winner would like to think. The claim of popular support or mandate, in reality is, perhaps, not so straightforward.

Voting a particular candidate does not, by extension, mean support for a political party and what it stands for. Some people might vote for a candidate because of a personal liking for the candidate rather than for the party. Some people might vote for a candidate because they like that candidate’s political party, although they might not necessarily like the candidate. Others might vote a candidate because the other choices on the ballot are even worse. Also, there may be people who vote a candidate in a bid to deny victory to another candidate.

And then, there are the invalid votes. What do completely blank voting slips mean? Does a blank slip mean the voter is uninterested, or doesn’t believe in the need for a government? How about voting slips in which the voter drew something other than a cross when indicating choice of candidate?

The meaning of the vote will differ from voter to voter and only the voter will know what his or her vote truly means. However, when all the individual votes are aggregated, what are their collective meanings? Can the winner truly claim popular support and mandate, and by extension, can the party with the most number of individual winners claim popular support and mandate?

The vote is a curious thing that’s hard to understand. But for the winners, what the vote means probably doesn’t matter. What really matters is, they won the right to rule.

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