Tuesday, June 28, 2011

A season of convincing ahead for Elected President hopefuls

Arising from my previous post, I have been asked what areas do I need 'convincing' from the trio of presidential hopefuls? It's a fair question since I have challenged the potential candidates to convincingly convince us, the voters, to give our vote to them.

Is there a single yardstick that I would apply in relation to the convincing that is needed? Well, truth be told, the type of convincing required would differ for each of the Tans in the upcoming presidential race.

I have previously touched on the candidates' need to demonstrate their independence from party influence and that they are in the race to serve the nation as the people's guardian, as the country's conscience. Hence, I would not belabour the point on independence.

Looking first at Mr Tan Kin Lian, I need to be convinced that TKL is seriously in this race and that he would see it through with convinction instead of waffling and dithering his way through.

Although TKL had been one of the earliest to announce his intention to run the race and has been actively speaking his mind in his blog and the social media, his narratives have sometimes bordered on appearing as though he is still in two minds or even contemplating dropping out of the race.

If we recall, he had said that he would think about contesting the election if he is granted the certificate of eligibility (this after he had earlier said he would run for president after getting his wife's agreement). Errr... so are you in or out? In it seems.

This was followed by the thinking out loud of discussing with Dr Tan Cheng Bock if one of them should bow out of the race following the announcement of Dr Tony Tan's intention to contest the presidency, so as not to split the not-for-the-establishment votes.

And now, TKL is asking for donations to support his candidacy and campaign, which could suggest that TKL may well run a very quiet campaign hinged almost entirely on the strength of his social media presence if he is unable to secure sufficient funding for his bid.

For Dr Tan Cheng Bock, I need to be convinced that he would not turn out to be a pro-establishment sleeper and that his anti-establishment rants have only been rants to give the electorate the illusion of holding the government accountable for their actions.

While TCB and his supporters have launched a campaign to paint him is a positive light as a people person, as someone who rose from humble beginnings, as someone who does not shrink from taking on the establishment, there are also those who have reminded us of his complicity in some of the questionable actions taken by the PAP-led government.

Questions have also been asked if TCB can be counted on to truly distance himself from the PAP given his 26 year political career under the party's banner as well as his membership in the party's Central Executive Committee - he was the only non-Cabinet member to be inducted into the CEC - prior to his resignation from the party (but this is after all a requirement for all presidential hopefuls).

For Dr Tony Tan, I need to be convinced that he is truly an independent candidate, as he claims. TT has a very steep slope to climb given the outpouring of support and endorsements that have flowed out of the ruling party.

Endorsements have come fast and furious from none other than Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong, Emeritus Senior Minister Goh Chok Tong, newly-minted Acting Minister of Community Development, Youth and Sports Chan Chun Sing, and President S R Nathan himself (despite not having ruled himself out of the race). It has been suggested that such a ringing endorsement could actually be the 'kiss of death' to TT's presidential ambition.

The problem with TT is also that he had been at almost the very apex of the PAP-led government, having served as a Deputy Prime Minister and having been touted as Singapore's first Prime Minister's preferred successor. His intimacy to the centre of power (both in government and the party) unfortunately taints his claim to independence and would require a lot to convince me otherwise.

Yet another yoke around TT's neck that leaves me with unconvinced is his involvment in the Government Investment Corporation of Singapore (GIC) until his resignation, which takes effect on 1 July. Would his recent membership in the GIC management team make him more likely to think alike or think contrarian when it comes to matters affecting the country's reserves? Would he adopt an arms length approach when it comes to such matters or would he work hand-in-glove with the GIC? I have alluded to this and shared my thoughts on this in my previous post.

I have no issues with their fiscal/monetary knowledge as I am certain that an ex-CEO (NTUC Income), a chairman of a listed company (Chuan Hup Holdings) and a former Cabinet minister (Defence and Education) should be well-versed in this area. I am certain that they each have the temerity and experience to deal with large sums of money (in the form of our reserves). And I am sure that they each also have enough experience under their individual belts to be able to make a judgement call when required to do so. The key question for me would be: Who among the three of them is more likely to make that call when required to do so? Who would ask the hard questions instead of assuming that the questions have been asked?

Compassion? Well, that depends very much on how they connect with the people during the course of the Elected President campaign (which essentially means from the moment they announced their candidacy). This may well be the EQ factor that could swing votes in their favour or against them. Both TKL and TCB have made ample use of social media to reach out to Singaporeans to help us get to know them, both as an individual and as a professional. Even TT has been reported to be looking into how he can harness the power of social media to support his cause.

However, even if all three presidential hopefuls are successful in using social media to champion their campaign, what is ultimately going to be key to the success of their campaign is the message they send out to voters.

No one denies that the presidential election is not a race defined along party lines, however, it would be foolish to assume that we can leave the politics completely out of the race, especially with a very much interested polity that is keenly watching every move made by each of the potential candidates.

As voters, we are also fully aware of the extent of the president's powers and that electing a president of our choice would not lead to the creation of an alternative centre of power, but as voters, I believe that it is our duty to also ensure that in choosing our next president, we ensure that we do not put all our eggs into one basket.

It is always good to have some variety, to have alternative voices, to have someone looking out for us. And it is my sincerest hope that we have someone who can do that for us in our next president.


Anonymous said...

Mostly agree with your assessment. However, TT really doesn't need any more convincing. His contesting as an Independent is moot. Would have served him better to just retire into his sunset, without tainting his reputation further. Wrong time, wrong place.

TKL has been so wishy-washy that I i wished he would just stick with his decision and run the campaign. He's coming across as opportunistic (to reassess his opp to win/lose) and non-commital.

TCB is promising todate. But like many, I question his motivations to run, and yet to see him touch on more causes / issues he would champion.

Anonymous said...

IMO, only TKL has the guts and gumption to actually do something about his beliefs.

Whoever thinks TT would be our 'great white hope' should see a doctor about his mind. This man has only one motivation - that his activities and action as the Dy Chairman cum MD of the GIC stay under wrapped for otherwise he will have plenty to answer for - surely our memories cannot be THAT short? We lost hundreds of billions! If your hope is for transparency in the matter, you must be almost mad to hope such if TT becomes the EP.

I am still baffled by people's admiration for TCB when his bark is worse that his bite. He is not even humble about it and I don't think he has the capacity to take on the job. What is his track record? His political influence and affiliation are probably responsible for his status in CH. I seriously doubt his ability in this area.

Anonymous said...

What the fish? With the limited power given to the President in the constitution, it does makes much diff who is the President.
Revert the President to the old ceremonial role so that he can truly unite Singaporean as being apolitical. It was just eye-wash by ex MM and many people bought it. Further the criteria set for Presidential candidate is so high that so few of our Malay, Eurasian and even the Indian professionals and academics could qualify unless he is associated with the ruling Party.

The job of checking the Government should go to the opposition party/parties not a single person.
This is just crap!