Even if you're not able to vote this election, you can still keep up with it and stay engaged in the conversation.
Just a few days ago, I was lamenting to friends about how much of a pity it was that we had missed the voting age by a year.
“It’s not fair that we don’t get to vote,” my friend argued, “What’s the point of reading up on the parties and their promises if we don’t even have a stake in the process anyway?”
I could fully empathise with how she was feeling. I think deep down, those of us who feel sufficiently well read and informed enough to make sound decisions on who we hope to see in Parliament crave the opportunity to exercise the right to vote.
Or perhaps it’s a typical case of envying our elders and wanting to “grow up” sooner. After all, what better way to prove our maturity than by casting a vote, which could potentially influence the trajectory of Singapore’s political scene?
But it’s not true that those of us who aren’t of age to vote yet don’t have a stake in the elections.
Some of us have heard of the concept that politics is concerned with us, even if we aren’t concerned with it. While those of us who are underaged may not be able to cast our votes, staying informed about politics and current affairs helps us gain a better grasp of the most important issues that affect our fellow Singaporeans and even ourselves.
For instance, when parties propose a “living wage“, what exactly would this entail? How would this be funded, and what are the implications of enacting this policy? More importantly, is there a reason for the current lack of a minimum wage?
Practising the skill of viewing propositions and ideas with a more critical eye can benefit us later on in life too, such as when we are called to make decisions in the workplace or even at home when we have our own families.
Moreover, staying updated on reports about the elections and reading party manifestos also allows us to get a pulse on key issues that our political leaders believe will affect us in the near future, which is particularly pertinent during the COVID-19 pandemic.
What are our leaders’ plans to help us tide through these difficult times? How might our families be affected? Where do we, as youths, fit into these plans, and what roles can we play? Staying abreast of General Election (GE) updates could help us come up with better personal plans to prepare for the uncertain future.
Beyond this, keeping tabs on the elections could also prompt us to engage in discussions with people who are able to vote, such as our parents and friends who are older. The election season provides an opportunity for us to understand how recent events have shaped others’ views and uncover personal stories behind oft-cited statistics.
In fact, holding these conversations helps us learn how to ‘agree to disagree’ and remain open to listening to others’ ideas even if we don’t entirely agree with them.
We may not be able to vote this election, but by taking note of the promises political candidates are making now, we will be better able to evaluate candidates’ track records when it comes our time to vote.
To me, an interesting aspect of this year’s GE is that most activities have been shifted online, where e-rallies and debates have replaced congregations in fields and vivacious speeches from politicians standing behind rostrums.
Undoubtedly, the experience of watching an online rally cannot replace the feeling of revelling in the fervour and excitement of an in-person rally. However, as a generation that thrives in cyberspace, tuning in to a livestream or clicking on an infographic about the elections is a walk in the park for us.
With easier access to the elections, we could view this election as an opportunity to learn more about our political process and democratic institutions. Singaporean youths are often criticised for being “book smart” or “only knowing how to study”, but we are capable of taking initiative to learn about things outside the classroom if we really set our minds to it.
Beyond this, delving deeper into how our political institutions function will equip us with much-needed knowledge on who and what exactly we are voting for when we are eligible to vote. Many opposition parties are looking to serve as “checks and balances” on the incumbent party, and learning about Singapore’s parliamentary system could help us better understand what this really entails.
If you feel like the world of politics is complicated, you definitely aren’t alone. In fact, I often feel like some issues are so nuanced and complex that they are just way above my head.
But we all need to start somewhere. It’s okay to click on an article and not understand everything that you’re reading. Learning about politics takes time, and the truth is that no one understands everything either.
The outcome of votes that are cast this Friday will invariably affect non-voters for the next five years. Understanding how our lives will be impacted over this period is only possible if we start following political discussions now.
Even if we can’t vote now, perhaps we should take the time — while we still have it — to explore different aspects of politics so that we feel more prepared to make a decision when our time to vote comes.
After all, aren’t we always told that it’s better to start learning sooner rather than later?
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