The presidential race is set to shift into high gear now that the three frontrunners have submitted their applications for the certificate of eligibility (COE), which ensures their right to put themselves up for consideration by the Singapore electorate in the coming presidential election.
Former member of parliament (MP) Dr Tan Cheng Bock was the latest to submit his application forms at the Elections Department (ELD) today (22 July), some two weeks after former NTUC Income chief Tan Kin Lian and former deputy prime minister Dr Tony Tan handed in their applications.
All that is left now is to await the issuance of the Writ of Elections by the ELD, which is thought to be anytime after 3 August when matters relating to the Registry of Electors are expected to be completed, and the outcome of the deliberations of the Presidential Elections Committee (PEC) on their eligibility to contest the election.
A lot can still happen in the intervening two weeks, with some sections of the population looking to see when the fourth Tan - Mr Tan Jee Say, a former senior civil servant and a non-PAP affiliated potential candidate as well as a former SDP candidate in the recent general elections - will step forth to submit his application for the COE. Mr Tan Jee Say had joined the race as a presidential hopeful when he collected his application forms on 15 July.
A potential fifth candidate is former JTC Corporation group chief financial officer Mr Andrew Kuan but he has yet to collect his application forms since announcing his intention to contest the office of the elected president. Of course, there is every possibility that Mr Kuan already had someone collect the forms for him and will use the three days allocated after the issuance of the Writ to submit his application for the COE.
Looking back at the submissions by the three Tans, it would appear that Dr Tan Cheng Bock's team had probably put in the most effort into preparing for the trip to the ELD. Compared to the same day submissions by Mr Tan Kian Lian and Dr Tony Tan, Dr Tan Cheng Bock's trip to the ELD was marked by the presence of supporters who chanted his name and broke into applause once they saw him.
From a public relations perspective, such a scene, which would probably find its way to the masses via the broadcast media and social media video channels, would probably help to establish him as a potential presidential candidate who has and is worthy of the support of the people, in the minds of the electorate.
Those who were lucky enough to be present at the ELD would have witnessed scenes of the 71-year-old general practitioner being carried and cheered by his supporters as well as the procession of old and young people from all races walking with him to Bayview Hotel for his press conference.
Kudos to Dr Tan Cheng Bock and his team for having distinguished himself from the other two candidates.
The press conference following the trip to the ELD was de rigueur and served only to provide each of the potential candidates with the opportunity to restate their platforms, which in the case of the presidential election saw the candidates touching on broadly similar subjects. With no party manifesto at their disposal and taking into account the limits on the role and powers of the president, the difference between their platforms could very much be a matter of degree.
The key to winning the hearts and minds of the voters would fall on their ability to convince the people of their honesty, integrity and sincerity to serve the people as a president who is independent of and above partisan politics and who will stand up for the people when it matters most.
In my view, Dr Tan Cheng Bock also scored points for having stuck to his programme. Despite being the first presidential hopeful to announce his intention to run the race, the doctor-turned-politician had not reacted in haste when Mr Tan Kin Lian and Dr Tony Tan submitted their applications within minutes of each other.
A lesser man may have jumped onto the bandwagon for fear of being left behind, but the six-term former MP for the Ayer Rajah constituency took a measured approach and looks set to reap the rewards of his enterprise.
Save for a sudden fall from grace, I would go so far as to say that up to this point in time, Dr Tan Cheng Bock has managed to secure his place in the 'hearts and minds' and imagination of the people of Singapore, especially those who would have the task of putting pen to paper to mark their choice of president.