Bloggers and tweeters were not just expressing discontent from the safety of their homes. Pictures show tens of thousands crowded at a stadium during a Workers’ Party rally on April 28—the biggest and most successful opposition party in the state. They waved blue flags and inflatable hammers, the symbol of the party. YouTube videos show the chairperson of the Workers’ Party, Sylvia Lim, unable to speak without being interrupted by overwhelming cheers every two minutes. Never before have Singaporeans seen such an image; there was never such fervor for the opposition, and there was no YouTube on which to publish this footage.
The rallies and buzz of discontent online may not have translated into overwhelming gains for the opposition, who had hoped for more seats. But for keen observers of Singapore’s political scene, this is a sign of things to come. In a blogpost, Catherine Lim, a best-selling author and a veteran political commentator wrote: “I believe that something once thought unthinkable, is happening in our midst right now—a made-in-Singapore political renaissance or revolution of sorts, that will eventually lead to a maturing of our society, and enable it to take its rightful place among the practicing democracies in the world.”
Writing about how her previously-held views on Singapore—as a fearful, politically-naive electorate, with a weak opposition, and an inflexible ruling party—were challenged during this election, she wrote: “Never have I been so glad that I have been proved so wrong on so many counts.”
For most of my youth, I was convinced that there would be little place for dissent or opposition support in Singapore. I was convinced, too, that it would be impossible to be a serious journalist in Singapore—to criticize wrongdoings of the government, to speak out against immigration or racial policies, to strive to fair and accurate coverage during election period. I was convinced that should I write about Singaporean politics, very few would actually be interested, let alone be moved to comment, respond, and participate in the political debate. I, too, have never been more glad to be proved wrong.