Thursday, August 4, 2011

A time of waiting for PE hopefuls

Update: By the end of the submission deadline for filing applications for the certificate of eligibility (COE), it looks like the contest has grown to a possible slate of six candidates with the addition of private tutor Ooi Ewe Boon to the list already comprising the four Tans and a Kuan.

And so it begins.

Well, at least, the waiting to know who will be the real contenders for the presidency.

With the Writ of Election already issued by Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong and the dates of Nomination and Election Day already established, it is now purely a waiting game for the presidential hopefuls as to whether they would have a campaign to mount after 17 August.

Four aspirants for the office of Head of State have already submitted their applications for their certificate of eligibility (COE), which entitles them to contest the race to the Istana.

Save for former JTC Corporation group chief financial officer Andrew Kuan, the other four possible candidates - former opposition politician Tan Jee Say, former NTUC Income chief Tan Kin Lian, former Ayer Rajah member of parliament Dr Tan Cheng Bock and former deputy prime minister Dr Tony Tan - have earlier submitted their applications, with Mr Tan Jee Say being the latest to do so yesterday.

According to the Elected President Act, Mr Andrew Kuan will have to submit his application within three days of the issuance of the writ in order to be considered by the Presidential Elections Committee (PEC) for candidacy in the election which will be held on 27 August. Mr Kuan has indicated that he will do so by this Friday.

It is now essentially a waiting game for the potential candidates as the PEC has up to the day before Nomination Day to issue the COE and for Singaporeans, the outcome of the deliberations of the PEC may well have an impact on how they will vote on Election Day.

There has been speculation in some circles that the PEC may only endorse the establishment-endorsed candidacy of Dr Tony Tan, which would mean a walkover for the former PAP stalwart, much like the previous presidential election which saw Singapore's sixth President S R Nathan returned to office for a second term unopposed.

I hope that it remains only a speculation as it would be a sad day for Singapore politics if this were to come to pass, and it is my hope that there will be a contest because the people deserve the right to choose who they believe would make a good and creditable seventh President of Singapore.

If I can be so bold, I would say that it would be a mistake for the PEC to only endorse just one candidate because some of the potential candidates had obviously done their due diligence prior to announcing their intention to put themselves up for the office of the elected president, and in doing so, open themselves up to the scrutiny of the public.

Doctor-turned-politician Dr Tan Cheng Bock had consulted his legal advisors on his eligibility and his decision to proceed indicated a quiet confidence that he would pass muster with the PEC.

In the case of Mr Tan Kin Lian, following the splitting of hairs over NTUC Income's status as a co-operative society and not a company incorporated under the Companies Act, his application for the COE was made with reference to a special clause in the eligibility requirements.

A more interesting conundrum is the case of Mr Tan Jee Say, who although was chief executive officer of an asset management company, only managed total assets worth more than $100 million instead of running a company with a paid-up capital of $100 million. How the PEC interprets this would probably figure significantly in their decision to issue or not issue him the COE.

For Mr Andrew Kuan, the chances of him getting the COE seem quite slim, given that he had not succeeded in his first attempt in 2005 based on the same experience and qualifications. I find it quite unlikely that the PEC would produce a difference decision after six years.

However, following the outcome of the recent May general elections, which saw a turning point in Singapore politics, a lot, as they say, can happen.

We could see a maximum slate of five candidates which could possibly favor Dr Tony Tan, especially if the electorate is divided between the establishment-leaning and more-independent leaning candidates, and the voting pattern in the general elections prevail.

But given the recent furore over the alleged abuse of position and privilege in relation to his son's national service obligations, such an advantage may no longer accrue to the former DPM as more and more people begin to grow disenchanted with him and by extension the party he had been with for so long as a member and a key decision maker.

Taking a more pragmatic position, I would be inclined to speculate on a three-cornered battle between the banker, the doctor and the insurance man. At the very least, it would be a contest between the two Dr Tans.

But even in this scenario, Dr Tony Tan would probably suffer the brunt of the unhappiness of the fence-sitters who wanted to see a non-PAP associated candidate on the slate while fans of Mr Tan Jee Say would throw their support behind either Dr Tan Cheng Bock or Mr Tan Kin Lian.

And if it boils down to a battle of only two Tans, the way I see it, the advantage would probably swing in favor of Dr Tan Cheng Bock.

It has been a long wait for the announcement of the presidential election date, and the next two weeks will probably seem even longer (assuming the PEC uses the maximum amount of time it has) to know who we will have to choose from.

But at least when it comes to marking our ballot papers, everyone will be able to see clearly who they are voting for and that may very well have made the wait well worth it.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Expect the expected 3 cornered fight.

Only expect the unexpected results perhaps.