SINGAPORE: In a Facebook post on Wednesday (Aug 23), writer Sudhir Thomas Vadaketh noted that some have argued for spoiling one’s vote in the upcoming presidential election because they do not want to “condone a flawed, inherently undemocratic process and institution”.
He called this “a legitimate political choice” but argued against it, deeming it a “mistake” that could have “grave consequences”. Mr Vadaketh wrote specifically about one of the candidates, former chief executive of insurer NTUC Income Tan Kin Lian, following concerns about Mr Tan’s social media posts about “pretty girls”, which the candidate simply brushed off.
“Given what we know about Tan Kin Lian (TKL), it’s important to keep him out of office. This is the primary reason to vote. There’s a risk that if he enters office, that he’ll consciously or unconsciously validate forms of behaviour and rhetoric that are beyond the pale, and potentially harmful to society. It’s not so much about the powers he’ll have. It’s about the messaging around whom we choose to put in the Istana,” wrote Mr Vadaketh.
The writer also referenced a statement from gender equality advocacy group AWARE , which noted Mr Tan’s “history of objectifying women, reducing them solely to their appearances for their personal entertainment”.
Mr Vadaketh pointed out that Mr Tan “seems to genuinely believe that he is simply complimenting women. But in a world plagued by misogyny and all sorts of online harm, his actions are abhorrent. Everything AWARE warned about in its statement is true.”
Aside from this, he flagged other worrisome behaviours the candidate displayed online in the past. He recalled that in a 2015 Facebook post, since removed, Mr Tan wrote, “I boarded SMRT 857 and found that I was in Mumbai. Hahaha.”
Mr Vadaketh noted that Mr Tan and his seconder, People’s Voice head Lim Tean, “have helped fuel xenophobia as well as racism towards all Indians”.
“If TKL wins, and even if the office tempers his own social media output, there’s a signalling effect to his followers. There is a risk of misogyny and racism getting much worse in Singapore,” he added.
The writer ended his post by noting that the risk of Mr Tan getting elected is small but added that he “can’t imagine spoiling my vote and thus increasing the risk, however small, of TKL getting elected”.
“If one really cares about misogyny and racism in SG, then it seems necessary to ensure that TKL never becomes president. Him simply being there might foster bigotry, and might embolden our worst instincts.”
Read Mr Vadaketh’s post in full here.