SINGAPORE — The Democratic Progressive Party (DPP) has pitched a Harvard graduate to be among the slate of candidates it and the Singapore People’s Party (SPP) will be jointly fielding in Bishan-Toa Payoh Group Representation Constituency (GRC).
Ms Nadine Yap (above), 46, graduated with a sociology degree from Harvard College in 1992 and went on to complete a Master of Arts from Harvard University three years later.
In an interview with TODAY, the Eurasian of Chinese-German mix said she wants to contest in the coming elections because she believes there needs to be more diverse types in Parliament.
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This story epitomises a major shift in Singapore politics in the last nine years – increasingly talented, well-qualified Singaporeans joining the opposition ranks. Prior to 2006, many opposition candidates were non-graduates — taxi drivers and storekeepers, for instance. But from 2006, I observed that the vast majority of opposition candidates were university graduates, often holding very respectable jobs. In 2011, several ex-government scholars — Hazel Poa, Benjamin Pwee and a few others — joined the Opposition, something I had never witnessed before.
It is natural that as a country progresses, more and more of its citizens will be empowered by higher levels of education and affluence and therefore become more politically assertive. More and more talented people will want to play a more active role in shaping the country by entering the political arena; some will feel they can benefit the country more by checking and balancing the ruling party rather than joining it. It is a growing challenge for the ruling People’s Action Party (PAP) as the perceived ‘credibility’ gap between its candidates and those of the Opposition has narrowed, at least as far as educational and career credentials are concerned.
At the last General Election in 2011, the PAP suffered its worst ever vote share since Independence, at 60.1 percent. This performance was widely attributed to intense public unhappiness over hot-button issues such as immigration, inequality, housing prices, the cost of living and transport. The government has taken very substantial steps to ameliorate public discontent over these issues, with bold and decisive policies such as sharply tightening the inflow of foreign labour; aggressively ramping up the supply of public housing; raising subsidies on childcare; the Bus Service Enhancement Programme; the Pioneer Generation Package; and the Silver Support Scheme. From my conversations with Singaporeans from all walks of life, I sense that dissatisfaction with the PAP has subsided significantly and the ground is sweeter now. Much fewer, I believe, will vote for the Opposition in protest against the PAP.
However, will Singaporeans’ seemingly growing desire for greater diversity and competition in politics (a natural corollary of a country’s development and maturation) see further gains for the Opposition after the breakthrough election in 2011, when they broke down the castle walls of a PAP-held GRC (Aljunied) for the first time?
To what extent will the celebratory SG50 spirit and the reawakening of national gratitude to Mr Lee Kuan Yew after his passing, work in the PAP’s favour?
This will be a fascinating election.
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