Monday, August 15, 2011

Investing my Trust in the right Tan

The battle for our votes is on, and the four eligible candidates for the presidential election have not been wasting their time since getting their certificates of eligibility (COE) last week.

Surprising many, myself included, the Presidential Elections Committee (PEC) had come to a decision on who would meet the criteria to run the race to the Istana a day after Singapore's 46th celebration of her nationhood. All the four Tans who aspired to be president passed their first hurdle and could now begin their campaign preparations in earnest.

Five days on, media reports seem to give the impression that former deputy prime minister Dr Tony Tan is ahead of the field, judging by the endorsements of his candidacy by a number of organizations and trade unions. This could easily translate into a massive shift among swing voters within the Singapore populace in favor of Dr Tony Tan if the apparent support for him reaches a tipping point. Or would it?

While the endorsements seems to be gaining momentum, I can't help but think that they have been canvassed to help Dr Tan overcome the negativity that had been simmering against him arising from the circumstances surrounding his son's unusually long deferment from national service and subsequent deployment in a research facility instead of a military camp.

Despite all the endorsements, I am skeptical about just how extensive the support for Dr Tony Tan is since these endorsements seem to be only representative of the leadership within the organizations and unions, and if the principle of each man voting by his own conscience still stands, I would go so far as to say that the battle for the presidency is still wide open.

In the meantime, the other candidates have been keeping themselves busy too, with former NTUC Income chief Tan Kin Lian and former investment adviser Tan Jee Say making the rounds to stay close to the ground. In contrast, former member of parliament Dr Tan Cheng Bock has been busy with his preparations to get his election materials approved by the Elections Department.

With less than three days to go to nomination day, it is interesting to note that the candidates have become more measured in what they are saying, steering a lot more closer to the definition of the role of the president as defined in the Constitution.

What is significant is that the three non-establishment endorsed candidates remain upbeat about their chances in the presidential election which will take place on 27 August. That's a good sign.

Beyond the endorsements and positive outlook of each candidate on his chances, the fact that there are four candidates for the highest office in the land suggests a possible advantage to Dr Tony Tan, assuming the same level of support (or possibly slightly reduced level) within the pro-PAP side of the electorate.

If this holds to be true, then the other three candidates will always come second best, unless there is a sudden reduction in the number of candidates contesting the office of the president by nomination day. But this is unlikely given that none of the candidates will withdraw from the race.

But instead of capitulating and giving up the chase, let us remember that it is us, the voters, who will decide who we want as our next president. We hold the key with our vote that we would do well to reserve it until it is time for us to use it at the polling booth.

I know who I will vote for come 27 August but even with this certainty, I hope that the Tan I want to see in the Istana (and for sure I am not going for the establishment-preferred candidate) will continue to give me and the rest of the Singapore electorate a good reason to choose him over the others.

At the end of day, besides just scrutinizing the qualities of the candidates’ character, experience, integrity, bearing and gravitas, as suggested by Emeritus Senior Minister Goh Chok Tong, I would put a premium on the level of trust I get from the candidate.

And that, ultimately, would be the most critical quality determining which way I will vote.

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