Over the weekend (September 23-24), Germany went to the polls, with 76.2 per cent of voters turning out to give Angela Merkel her fourth term as Chancellor; New Zealand's parliamentary elections ended in a stalemate, with a caretaker prime minister in place until a coalition government could be formed - possibly weeks later.
Meanwhile, Singapore's presidential elections - much ballyhooed in the press, debated by netizens, and with the police issuing traffic and security advisories earlier - was set for September 23, but failed to materialise. By September 11, only one candidate had been deemed eligible to run, and on September 14, Madam Halimah Yacob was sworn in as the country's eighth - and first female - president.
"Regardless of who wins, an election should be a time for optimism and fresh approaches," said former New Mexico governor and 2016 US presidential hopeful, Gary Johnson. Meanwhile, Irish playwright George Bernard Shaw was of the opinion that "an election is a moral horror, as bad as a battle except for the blood; a mud bath for every soul concerned in it". Between these two extremes lie a myriad of individual attitudes towards democracy at work, the exercising of one's duty as a citizen, and the very civilised way of settling a public argument: voting.
What is it about elections that gets people up in arms and hot under the collar? Why do emotions sometimes run high (to the point of necessitating a Cooling-Off Day in Singapore, defined as a "24-hour campaign silence period", "to give voters some time to reflect rationally on issues raised during the election before going to the polls")?
Science and politics, on the surface of things, are considered objective disciplines, requiring rational judgment and the calm weighing of pros and cons. Yet, there is no denying that even in science and politics, what we know to be true can sometimes be at odds with what we feel to be right. How we vote is inexorably coloured by how we feel, even as we try to justify our choices in socio-economic terms or by cloaking them in rhetoric.
With that in mind, we asked you to send us your creative responses to the theme of "election". And you did.
Gary Beck fires the first salvo in the issue, with three poems from his "Earth Links" unpublished collection - a collection which, in Beck's own words, "contrasts the work of nature with the work of Man, often revealing our flagrant madness". Sarah Bigham's visual poetry brings home the point that democracy is a long road, and - for women, especially, since the march of the suffragettes - the right to vote should never be taken for granted.
Meanwhile, Chris Rodriguez takes a dim view of election year 2016, but Helen Lee Tart sees past the disappointment to focus on the beauty and diversity of the faces at a polling station.
Jonathan Yip snuck past the post with a last-minute submission - a poem that seems to be processing a non-event, a silence. And Celia Hauw's piece is a subtle critique in the form of a series of stunning imagery, a tone experiment for the (almost/chronically) jaded.
These are all voices that deserve to be heard.
27 September 2017