Friday, July 15, 2011

A Plurality of Choices for Voters in coming PE

Wow! After nearly two decades since the last contested presidential elections, we could now possibly have five potential candidates fighting for the office of the president. This is truly unprecedented.

The latest to throw his name into the ring is Mr Tan Jee Say, who stood as an opposition candidate in the Holland-Bukit Timah GRC during the recent May general election. He is offering himself as the candidate whose independence from the PAP is clear, obvious and cannot be in doubt.

Despite being aware of the constitutional limitations of the office of the president, Mr Tan has plunged head on into the fray believing that "the office of the president is what the president makes it out to be". According to Mr Tan, "He can be as quiet and inactive as he chooses to be. Or he can be active." Quite obviously a dig at retiring President S R Nathan, whose two terms in office had been largely unenventful.

The former civil sevant and Singapore Democratic Party (SDP) member further said, "I want to be an active president, engaging the nation on issues of conscience and promoting worthy causes."

However, is Mr Tan truly the independent candidate that he claims to be? Can he win over the hearts and minds of the people of Singapore? Or is Mr Tan too partisan by virtue of his association with the SDP and his contesting the May general election?

Mr Tan may, for all intents and purposes, be the non-PAP candidate but I have my doubts about his partisanship. Having lost out in the general election, Mr Tan now appears to be pursuing his party's election agenda through the office of the president.

Would it not be better for Singaporeans if Mr Tan furthers the work of his party on the ground, building up both the party's and his political credentials so that they can offer Singaporeans an alternative choice at the ballot box, much like what the Workers' Party have been doing?

Of course, whether Mr Tan actually features in the presidential election depends very much on the Presidential Elections Committee (PEC). Like former NTUC chief Tan Kin Lian, Mr Tan will be applying for his certificate of eligibility under a special clause.

Meanwhile, the third of the Tri-Tans, Dr Tan Cheng Bock, has firmly committed himself to the presidential race, going by his Facebook posting this morning. He will be dropping by the Elections Department next week to submit his application for the certificate of eligibility (COE) to contest the presidential election.

It had also been reported yesterday that Dr Tan was taking leave from his medical practice of 40-years to focus on his election campaign - this after he had made arrangements to ensure that his elderly patients would be looked after.

I guess this was the programme that the former PAP member of parliament was referring to when he did not follow on the heels of Mr Tan Kin Lian and former deputy prime minister Dr Tony Tan when they submitted their applications for the COE on 7 July.

At least, to his credit, Dr Tan is making sure that all his personal affairs are in order before he goes full-swing into campaign mode.

No further word though has been heard about former JTC Corporation group chief financial officer Andrew Kuan's bid for the presidency following his declaration of intent earlier this week.

Well, no matter how many candidates ultimately feature in the elections, it will prove to be very interesting given the plurality of choices presented to voters.

Let us hope that we make the right choice, both individually and collectively.

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