Friday, August 19, 2011

PE2011: The Trouble With Endorsements

There's just slightly over a week to go until Singaporeans head to the polls to elect the next president.

Since being confirmed as candidates after nomination day, all four candidates have been hot on the campaign trail, pressing the flesh with as many people as possible, in the hopes of winning over the hearts and minds of the voters.

At the end of the day, it is the voters, in their individual, personal and informed capacity, who hold the power to decide who most deserves their mandate to be Singapore's seventh president. And unless someone had changed the rules, as far as I am aware, the election is still based on a one-man-one-vote system.

I am therefore amused when I see institutional bodies (unions, associations, trade bodies, etc) tripping over themselves to throw their support behind a particular candidate, with the hazy claim of representing their entire constituency.

The latest to do so is the Singapore Malay Chamber of Commerce and Industry (SMCCI), which has chosen to endorse the establishment preferred presidential candidate Dr Tony Tan. And while the former deputy prime minister has tried to extend said support as an endorsement by the Malay community, I would argue that it is, at best, a gross misrepresentation and at worst, a desparate attempt to draw together tenuous fragments in the hope of influencing how people will vote.

To begin with, who gave the SMCCI a mandate to speak on behalf of the Malay community? The SMCCI's constituency is its members, who number among the business elites of the Malay community. They may be business leaders but they certainly are not the leaders of the Malay community.

Secondly, as clearly indicated by the SMCCI president, the expression of support was decided, and not unanimously mind you, by its 12-member executive committee (EXCO). Even if the EXCO had been empowered by its members to manage the SMCCI's affairs, I am not so certain if such empowerment extended to giving the EXCO the right to decide for them how they will vote in something as important as the presidential election.

Thirdly, was the matter tabled to members to seek a consensus after the EXCO came to its decision? Or did the EXCO decide to proceed solely on the merits of the decision of fewer than a dozen people? If it is the latter, how can this be taken to be indicative of the Malay community's "welcome" of Dr Tony Tan's candidacy?

I wonder if this is also the case with the many other endorsements that Dr Tony Tan has received to date from bodies like the Federation of Tan Clan Association, the Singapore Teachers' Union and a host of other unions. If the answer is yes, we would be unfairly subjecting ourselves to the tyranny of the minority by throwing our lot with them, just because they say so.

As I have written in an earlier posting, come election day, I will be going to choose my president. It will be my choice, a personal choice that I will make independently and not as directed by my union, association, trade body or any other institutional entity that I may be part of.

And as for the bodies that have so eagerly thrown their support behind Dr Tony Tan, I have to ask what they will do if the horse they bet on is not first past the post. Will they do an about face and shower the plaudits they so readily gave earlier to Dr Tony Tan to whoever wins the election? Or will they just quietly and sheepishly slip into obscurity in order to save face?

Well, whichever course of action they choose, it will be indicative of their sincerity, character and integrity.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

The bottom line is that voting is a sacred personal choice; a personal responsibility and no nobody else.

Endorsement is just a gimmick which also can be a double edge sword. I suppose the invisible hand is getting desperate by the days; still in denial mode or simply not realizing that the political landscape has fundamentally and irreversibly changed.