09/02/2015, 00.00
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Singapore elections: Church tells Catholics to cast a moral and responsible ballot

The city-state is set to renew its parliament on 11 September. After 50 years in power, the ruling party remains the frontrunner, but the opposition has become competitive. Archbishop Goh reminds Catholics that they have a right and duty to vote. The Church’s task is to promote people and the common good. It does not endorse any candidate or party, but informs people’s conscience.

Singapore (AsiaNews) – Singapore goes to the polls on 11 September. As the campaign gets underway, Singapore’s main opposition party is getting ready to go after the ruling party over the economy, public transport, immigration and expensive housing.

In view of this, Mgr William Goh Seng Chye, archbishop of Singapore, issued a pastoral letter to the faithful before the general election. In it, the prelate writes, “as citizens of the state, we are called to participate in public life in a personal capacity. These two spheres, religion and politics, though distinct, are interrelated. A good Catholic should also be a good citizen”.

Indeed, as citizens, Catholics have a "moral duty" to exercise the right to vote "responsibly". For its part, the Church plays a primary role in guiding the faithful, particularly those involved in political life, and promoting “the human person and the common good.”

Singaporeans go to the polls in early elections after Prime Minister Lee Hsien dissolved parliament on 25 August, more than a year before it was due.

Son of Singapore strongman Lee Kuan Yew who died last March, Mr Lee heads Singapore's ruling People's Action Party at a time when it is facing for the first time an electoral fight in all 89 seats.

The government and the ruling party, which has been in power since independence 50 years ago, plan to exploit the positive mood generated by the anniversary celebrations and the emotional wave triggered by the death of the father of the nation to consolidate their power.

However, the opposition has grown in recent years, and the less than stellar performance of the economy might create some surprises.

Yet, despite some problems, the city-state remains a model of growth and progress in Asia, and is considered the most mother-friendly place in the continent.

Devoid of natural resources, it set a record in terms of exports last March, and has launched a programme aimed at water independence by 2061.

Overall, it stands as an example of economic and financial development and protection of the urban environment.

in his call to citizens to vote, the archbishop said, “we have a moral obligation to exercise our vote responsibly,” choosing candidates and parties that promote "justice, equality, progress, peace and harmony" as well as defend the weak, the elderly, people with special needs, the family and marriage, which are major issues in Singapore.

On its website, the Archdiocese of Singapore issued voting guidelines that reflect Mgr Goh’s message.

Although "It is important to note that the Catholic Church in Singapore does not endorse any political party, candidate or manifesto, [. . .] the Church’s role is to help form our consciences so that on September 11 we will cast our ballots, not for the sake of narrow sectarian interests, but for the good of the whole country."

To achieve this, the prelate calls on voters to “Pray before voting, and, if possible, pray and fast for the candidates; that they may always work for the common good of Singapore.”

In Singapore Catholics number more than 200,000, or about 5 per cent of the total population. Buddhism has the largest following with 43 per cent, followed by Christianity with 18 per cent, Islam with 15 per cent, and Taoism and Hinduism with 11 and 5 per cent respectively.

The local church is going through a phase of growth and dynamism illustrated by the opening of a theological seminary, a real "milestone" for the local community.

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