Sorry Mr President, you’re just not cool enough for young people

Chua Yini

— August 25th, 2011, 10.53pm

Sorry Mr President, you’re just not cool enough for young people

The General Elections 2011 has attracted the attention of many young Singaporeans. Did the Presidential Elections achieve that too? Photo: Xue Jianyue

Singapore goes to the polling stations on Saturday, yet many of my peers are still undecided on which Tan to vote for.

Few of my peers are scrambling to read up on the latest news, leaving most of them woefully inadequate with regards to knowledge about the upcoming election.

From my gut feel, the prevailing mood among youths here is that of disinterest.

What happened to the election fever that caught Singapore’s previously apathetic youths a few months back? The heady feeling that actually made us pick up a newspaper, listen to news and discuss politics? What happened to the pretentious, pseudo-intellectual political discussions that replaced conversations on the Great Singapore Sale?

Sadly, the political storm whipped up by the General Elections (GE) has since died down into an eddy.

One answer may be the perception that the Presidential Election is not worth investing one’s time in. For young people, it lacks the ‘cool factor’ that the GE offered.

During the GE, it was uncool to be apathetic, cool to have a point of view and absolutely necessary to be politically aware. The social media, arguably the arena of the youths, was inundated with comments, status updates, and links to political articles.

Being young is also about being seen at the right places, doing the right things. Young people wanted to be seen at rallies during the GE, directly participating in the political process.

The herd mentality had played a big part in prompting many of Singapore’s young people to jump onto the political bandwagon. As such, it comes as no surprise that when the GE ended, interest in Singapore politics simply evaporated.

To the mind of the fickle young, the value of politics has plummeted.

Of course, the duration for campaigning was probably too short for the electorate to make an informed choice, which might have a net effect of pushing many undecided young voters to judge based on first impressions.

In this case, the labels placed on our presidential hopefuls play a much more important role than their credentials and the contents of their speeches.

Nonetheless, a spillover effect from the GE lingers. For youths, it has always been ‘cool’ to be anti-establishment. Thus, some youths eschew Dr Tony Tan for his close links with the People’s Action Party (PAP), and may be inclined towards the outspoken Mr Tan Jee Say for his more confrontational attitude towards the PAP.

In our one-man, one-vote system, an educated vote is worth as much as an uneducated vote. It does not benefit our society to have young people, inheritors of our nation’s future, simply voting for the sake of voting.

The hypocritical, inconsistent ‘interest’ of our youth in politics make us seem like people who go with the flow, like faceless soldiers marching mindlessly to a vague future.

But voting is a right and a privilege. What we need is a nation of well informed voters. While I am not qualified to vote this year, but you can be sure that when it comes to the next elections I will play the role of a well informed voter.

Only then can we have real confidence for the future.


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  1. This article tries to offer a reason why this time round, youths are simply not interested in the Elections. However, I believe there may be deeper reasons. After the opposition’s crashing failure in May, youths have wised up to the fact that democracy is nothing but an exercise in illusion. The odds are stacked and you-know-who wields the media and political clout. No matter what we try to do, we can’t make a difference. Of course, it is a sad state of affairs, but what better can we do? In other to protect ourselves from further disillusionment, we have chosen to be apathetic this PE.

  2. Gong Lan


    August 26th, 2011 at 1.34pm

    Lemme tell you why the campaigning period is limited to one week! The secret is : campaigning is VERY THE STRENUOUS one, and the old ppl who would most likely run for Presidency cannot tahan any longer. Look at TT – the poor guy has noticeably thinned down and haggard ! All that excitement, all the walking around under hot sun, shaking hands with peasants, kissing babies (gosh! Dunno what diseases these peasant babies have on them!), after 3-4 days these Ah Peks half-head orreddy! If this were the US, with a one-year long intra-Party campaigning before someone wins the Party’s presidential nomination, all our Ah Peks might have died by the 3rd week on the campaign trail. Stroke lah, sun stroke lah, heart attacks lah, sheer overwhelming heart-stopping fatigue lah, will mean nobody is left to be voted in at the end. HAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHA. Perhaps its just as well then. If Shahmugam is correct, we dun need a living human being in the Istana, just a shop window mannikin good enuff already: see no evil, hear no evil, spk no evil, definitely do no evil, and will NEVER approve draw-downs from our Reserves.

  3. I know it’s “cool” to be anti-establishment, but you may be surprised to find the number of young people who actually prefer the status quo.

    As with the rest of Singapore, these people are probably in the majority.

  4. The author seems to have built his argument on his/her gut feel that “the prevailing mood among youths here is that of disinterest”. My gut feel is that this is of the opposite. Isn’t this a very hasty generalization for the author to make?